Reviews Teaching Writing Technology

“How to Read a Book”: Paul Edward’s guidebook to reading techniques for students

From a piece by Paul Edwards of the School of Information at University of Michigan.

So unless you’re stuck in prison with nothing else to do, NEVER read a non-fiction book or article from beginning to end.

Instead, when you’re reading for information, you should ALWAYS jump ahead, skip around, and use every available strategy to discover, then to understand, and finally to remember what the writer has to say. This is how you’ll get the most out of a book in the smallest amount of time…

Table 1. Summary of reading strategies and techniques (formatting is slightly altered due to posting in WordPress. For original, click below.)

Strategies and techniques  Rationale 
Read the whole thing  Major arguments and evidence matter more than details. Grasping the structure of the whole is more important than reading every word.
Decide how much time you will spend  Real-world time is limited. If you know exactly how long you can actually spend on reading, you can plan how much time to devote to each item.
Have a purpose and a strategy  You’ll enjoy reading more, and remember it better, if you know exactly why you’re reading.
Read actively  Never rely on the author’s structures alone. Move around in the text, following your own goals.
Read it three times  First time for overview and discovery. Second time for detail and understanding. Third time for note-taking in your own words.
Focus on parts with high information content  Tables of contents, pictures, charts, headings, and other elements contain more information than body text.
Use PTML (personal text markup language)  Mark up your reading with your own notes. This helps you learn and also helps you find important passages later.
Know the author(s) and organizations  Authors are people with backgrounds and biases. They work in organizations that give them context and depth.
Know the intellectual context  Most academic writing is part of an ongoing intellectual conversation, with debates, key figures, and paradigmatic concepts.
Use your unconscious mind  Leave time between reading sessions for your mind to process the material.
Rehearse, and use multiple modes   Talking, visualizing, or writing about what you’ve read helps you remember it. 

Read the full article here: