Making the most of your reading

Lucie Hamilton

Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Education and Social Care
Course: Early Childhood Studies
Category: Education

21 August 2017

When you start your course, you will very quickly learn that whenever you read something in a textbook / on a website / in a journal article, it would be beneficial for you to make a note of anything you think you may use in the future. Now this sounds like an impossible task, I know. However, as you go forward, you will find that sometimes you will read something in a text and you will know when you come across some good information - this is the time to note it down.

I learned this the hard way and I am not the only one. I think this is just something that new students have to do to learn how to choose between useful and general information. But I am here to give you some tips so that you can apply these straight away and avoid hours of sifting through books when you are writing your essays to find that one quote that you remembered reading but didn’t note down!

1/ Post it notes.

You cannot be a fully-fledged student if you do not own any post it notes. Ok, maybe you can but your life will be a million times easier with this purchase. I have an array of different shapes and sizes. This isn’t a necessity but it is always nice to have a selection of colours, especially if you want to colour code!

Keep these to hand whenever you read anything. If you find anything interesting, pop a post-it on the page. This way, you know the useful pages within a book when you pick it up. You will still have to sift through, but this will reduce the workload. And especially at the beginning of the semester when you aren’t clear on what you will need for that final essay, doing this will just highlight the interesting parts of the book.

2/ Colour coding.

This is where coloured post its come in. Another great way to categorise the pages you are picking out is to colour code the post-its you use. For example, I might use green ones for behaviours, pink for theorists and yellow for professional practice. Orange might highlight play references, blue for EYFS points and red for SEN. By following this code right from the start, when I get to the end of the semester and I am looking for quotes and text to reference to, I can just look through the relevant highlight areas rather than hundreds of pages.

3/ Pencil notes.

If you are borrowing a book from the library and you do not own any post it notes, another thing you can do is to note take and underline in pencil. These can be easily removed when you are set to return the books.

4/ Note taking.

When I am writing my essay and I put in something I find in a textbook, I will always write a note in brackets after the sentence with the title of the book and the page. This means I know where I have got it from and I am not wasting time or breaking the flow of writing to write out the whole reference. I don’t worry about spelling or formatting correctly, just a quick note of surname, book title and page number – I can format it correctly when I go back.

5/ Further reading

One thing I have noticed a lot is that in most textbooks, there will be a reference to further reading. When you find something useful in a book, it is great when there is a reference to read more about the subject. My advice is to follow these up and take a look. This will be great for your wider reading which gives you extra marks in essays!

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