Reading

La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Reading

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Reading

Achieve@Uni
La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library

Reading

Achieve@Uni

Reading for your subject

In most of the subjects you study in the Arts, Social Sciences and Education, you are expected to do a considerable amount of reading. Here are some tips on how to best manage the load:

Make sure you complete all the ‘Required’ or ‘Essential’ weekly reading prescribed in each of your subjects.

Subjects in the Arts, Social Sciences and Education often examine the development of knowledge, theory, methodology and practice over time and for this reason each week’s reading tends to build on what has been studied in previous weeks. If you skip a week’s required reading it will be very difficult to make sense of what follows.

Don't avoid reading scholarly articles.

In the Arts, Social Sciences and Education a lot of the relevant reading is produced when scholars make new claims, ask questions and suggest answers to one another, via articles published in academic journals. While these articles can be challenging to read, you can’t avoid them by reading a general textbook or web page instead. Equally, because these articles respond to previous research they will have an extensive bibliography and reading them is an excellent way to find other related readings – which is particularly helpful when writing your own assignments and research essays.

Look ahead at essay topics as a guide to making notes from weekly readings.

This is not only good preparation for class discussions and activities, but will save you a lot of time when it comes to writing essays and assignments as you’ll already have a lot of useful reading done and won’t have to go searching for it again. If you paraphrase or directly quote information from these readings make sure you keep note of exactly where the information came from (author, title, date and page numbers).‚Äč

Don’t search for a consensus that may not exist!

Remember that in the Arts, Social Sciences and Education much of the key knowledge has developed through differences of opinion, rather than consensus (agreement). When it comes to reading in preparation for writing an essay you may find areas of agreement between different scholars, however, many essays will require you to identify and critically analyse the different arguments that exist.

Develop a Glossary.

Every discipline in the Arts, Social Sciences and Education has its own jargon (words and phrases specific to a particular occupation or area of interest that don’t always make sense to outsiders) as well as more general ‘academic’ language. Make note of key words and phrases you regularly encounter in your reading as you’re likely to keep on striking them and need to know what they mean. Many textbooks and study guides include a glossary of key terms and these can also be found online. However, the definitions are often quite broad and vague so while you might use an existing glossary as a starting point, it’s a good idea to develop your own glossary, written in plain language that make sense to you.

Make a list of common acronyms and initialisations.

Much of the reading you encounter in Business and Economics will refer to large government and private industry bodies that use acronyms or initialisations, instead of their full names. For example, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission uses the initialisation ‘ACCC’. Equally, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission uses the acronym ‘ASIC’. There are dozens of these and you’ll encounter them on a regular basis so it’s good to assemble your own list as early as possible in your studies.

Take responsibility for your own reading.

The ‘Essential’ or ‘Required’ reading for your subjects is always a necessary starting point, but you need to read more widely. The world of business and economics is constantly changing, therefore you need to keep up to date with events and this is best achieved by reading the business section of daily newspapers (either in print or on line). Making this a normal part of your weekly reading will provide context for class discussions and assignments and familiarise you with issues discussed in other readings.

Don’t believe everything you read!

Because business and economics affect the way we live and vote much of what you read will have an ‘agenda’. In other words, the opinion pieces, articles and press releases relating to economic and business developments are not always independent or unbiased. Read critically, thinking about why the writer might be presenting their views in a particular way – are they politically motivated? Is the piece you’re reading really just promotional or advertising? It’s best to read a range of opinions on a particular topic rather than taking any single view at face value.

Discuss your readings with others.

It’s one thing to read…it’s another thing to understand what you’ve read. A lot of the reading in business and economics relates to large, complex ideas and developments and can be difficult to process by yourself. One of the most useful strategies for ensuring you understand the meaning and implications of what you’ve read is to share interpretations and views with other students. This will sometimes happen in a more formal way in your classes, but many students benefit from forming their own reading groups, either in person or on-line.

Don’t just do the ‘Essential’ or ‘Required’ reading.

Law texts are often challenging because they require a large degree of background knowledge about particular cases and developments in the legal profession. Reading relevant newspaper articles, legal websites, on-line reports and blogs will keep you up to date in regard to recent developments, but also provide essential context for helping you understand the essential or required readings.

Develop a method for reading and taking notes from each type of law text, especially cases and statutes.

This practice will not only help you prepare for class discussions, but will be a great time saver later on as written assessments and exams in Law rely heavily on your ability to cite cases and statutes in detail. When reading about a particular case, try to quickly identify and record the essential information, such as: the name and date of the case, which court, the parties involved, the outcome, any legal issues the case raised, the court’s findings and reasons behind them.

Don’t ignore the footnotes!

A lot of the reading you will do as a Law student is highly inter-textual. In other words, what you’re reading often only makes proper sense when you understand its relationship to other principles, cases, statutes and contexts. As such, legal texts are often heavily footnoted, with reference to other texts and sources that you will need to follow, especially those that help clarify complex terminology or legal findings. Skipping these might be quicker, but will make the text much harder to understand.

Allow more time than you think you’ll need.

Studying Law presents a number of challenges, especially for new students, which slow down the reading process. The sheer quantity of reading is a significant challenge for many law students and the arguments and findings contained in reports and journal articles are often complex and assume a great degree of prior knowledge. Typically, you will not read books and articles in Law without having to consult other readings (for background and contextual information) as well as legal dictionaries and/or a glossary of terms…all of which slows down the reading process.

There are two main types of journal articles in the sciences:

  1. Experimental or design papers – these are written about a particular approach to a problem. They may be written by a single researcher or, more often, by a group of researchers. Each researcher, or group of researchers, writes a paper about their findings and publishes it in a journal.
  2. Review articles– these are written by the foremost experts in a field. They are a summary of all of the recently published research about a particular problem. They compare and evaluate the findings of recent experimental or design papers and comment on the current state of knowledge about a particular problem.

Learn key terms and develop a glossary.

The Sciences make extensive use of technical and scientific terminology and abbreviations. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the meaning of these as soon as possible in order to complete the readings prescribed for lectures and class discussions, as well as for researching upcoming assessments. Many textbooks include a glossary of key terms and these can also be found online, however, it’s a good idea to develop your own glossary, written in plain language that make sense to you.

Allow plenty of time!

Completing readings for your classes and assignments is far more time consuming that simply reading about an interesting scientific or technological development in a magazine, blog or newspaper. Science readings are often complex in both structure and content. In order to read them properly you’ll probably need to stop several times in order to read footnotes, search up definitions of key terms, look closely at data tables (which are often at the back of the article in an ‘Appendix’) Even if you’ve done all of these things, you might still have to read the piece more than once!

Be selective by reading Abstracts and reviews on line.

In the sciences Abstracts are an important feature of research reports and journal articles. When you are asked to do research for your assignments you’ll be confronted with a vast array of sources and it’s important to decide what is relevant and useful. In order to do this, read the title of the papers that appear in database and catalogue searches, but also read the ‘Abstract’ which provides a concise summary of the entire paper. Of course, Abstracts are no substitute for reading the whole paper, but they will at least allow you to narrow down your options.

Read for understanding first, then for information and evidence

When reading for classes and assignments you’ll often need to do your own research using journal articles. In all of the sciences journal articles range from easily readable ‘overview’ pieces to extremely detailed and complex reports on specific areas of research. It may be easier to start your reading for any new topic with review articles, which give you an understanding of the research area, before reading more challenging experimental and design papers.

Discuss your readings with others.

It’s one thing to read…it’s another thing to understand what you’ve read. A lot of the reading in the Sciences makes use of specialised technical language and often relates to large, complex ideas and developments and can be difficult to process by yourself. One of the most useful strategies for ensuring you understand the meaning and implications of what you’ve read is to share interpretations and views with other students. This will sometimes happen in a more formal way in your classes, but many students benefit from forming their own reading groups, either in person or on-line.

Don’t just read the website! Look for relevant documents and links.

Many websites for engineering and computer science/IT topics are commercial by nature and sponsored or run by Industry Bodies or companies. They may not cite their sources of information and may not have been peer-reviewed, so be careful about using them for assignments. More detailed and properly researched information is often found in documents available for downloading (often a PDF). Documents you have downloaded need to be treated as a book or report when reading them, which means you should exercise critical thinking and carefully record the publication details and page numbers for any material you may paraphrase or quote in an assignment

Make sure your reading is recent and relevant:

Our understanding of health and disease is evolving rapidly. Many of the subjects in Health Sciences make use of a general text book, however, when it comes to undertaking research for assignments you will need to read more specific, recent publications. This means you need to make sure you read articles published within the past 5 years to ensure the information is up to date.

Make sure you keep readable handwritten clinical case notes:

If your course involves placements (e.g., in a hospital or healthcare centre) you will need to be able to read handwritten notes you made as these will often form the basis of assignments and reports.

Every time you read a journal article or research report pay attention to the ‘Method’:

In Health Sciences this is not so much about the method of writing the article, but the method used when conducting research. You will find this in papers that report on investigations, trials and new research. Investigations can be done in different ways which can sometimes explain why researchers come up with conflicting results. The ‘Method’ section usually describes the setup of the research, the materials used and how the research was done.

Carefully read the ‘Discussion’ section of research papers, not just the ‘Results’:

Most reports on recent health research have a ‘discussion’ section that usually starts with a brief description of the main findings of the investigation. Typically, these findings will then be described in detail and compared with the findings of other studies. You may find this section useful if you need to report on the current state of research about a particular topic.

Learn key terms and develop a glossary:

The Health Sciences make extensive use of medical and scientific terminology, abbreviations and acronyms. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the meaning of these as soon as possible in order to complete the readings prescribed for lectures and class discussions, as well as for researching upcoming assessments. Many textbooks include a glossary of key terms and these can also be found online, however, it’s a good idea to develop your own glossary, written in plain language that make sense to you. Of course, you might like to use an existing glossary- such as the one below- as a starting point.