How to Read Something (Academic)

I tend to fall into an unproductive reading session where I plunk myself at the beginning of the text and drudge my way through it linearly. This method is good when the text is interesting and I have time, but that is not always the case.

If you want to get the gist (thesis) of the text quickly, you should jump around strategically and pick out the central points.

  1. Analyze the title and subtitle.
    • What do you think is the argument or purpose of the text? It may be a statement or a question.
  2. Review the whole piece of text and skim through the diagrams and subtitles.
    •  This helps to prime your brain and organize your thoughts for what to expect while reading. Also, some questions may arise, which will keep you engaged as you seek for answers.
    • Can you pick out the storyline?
  3. Read the conclusion, then restate it in your own words.
    • The author should summarize the work and you should be able to pick out the thesis.
  4. Read the introduction, then restate it in your own words.
    • The author typically sets the stage for the work a.k.a. why it’s important.
  5. Target the important (relevant) sections based on the thesis.
  6. Ask yourself: how does this work link to the larger picture?
  7. Be sure to make notes while reading and write a little summary at the end. This will help greatly when you need to look back at the text.


A Mind for Numbers (Oakley, 2014)

Grad School Essentials (Shore, 2016)