Kyle’s Tips for October: Effective Reading
News Article by Kyle Trenshaw, PhD, Educational Development Specialist for STEM at University of Rochester
Reading textbooks for courses, articles for the literature review portion of research papers, or even popular press publications about current events can be slow going, and we can come away without really being able to recall much of what we read despite putting in a lot of time. This month’s tip is to find a way to annotate your reading that works for you. By annotating, you are synthesizing as you read, which increases your productivity and your ability to recall information later for exams or as you are writing. Some examples of useful methods are:
The Interrogative Method - This method involves generating questions from the reading that you can use to help focus your thought process as you read. For example, if you happen upon an unfamiliar term, write in the margins “What is [term]?” or turn the headings of the reading into questions, such as “How does The Nervous System connect to the cardiovascular system? (where "The Nervous System" is the heading)” This method works well for most any type of reading.
The BEAM Method - This method is designed for readings that are written to make an argument of some kind. The letters stand for:
- Background - Is what I am reading providing context for the argument?
- Exhibit - Is what I am reading giving an example that supports the argument?
- Argument - Is what I am reading stating the argument explicitly?
- Method - Is what I am reading showcasing the methods used to make the argument?
Going sentence-by-sentence or paragraph-by-paragraph using this method to classify what you are reading generates an outline of the reading’s argument that you can reference back to when you are finished. This outline works particularly well for writing the literature review or discussion for research papers and really narrowing in on exactly the portion of the reading you wish to cite.
The Hypothesis Method - This method involves coming up with a hypothesis about the reading before you begin and then categorizing each paragraph as either confirming or denying that hypothesis. For example, if you are reading a textbook chapter about thyroid cancer, you might hypothesize about the potential similarities between thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer, and then look for evidence of these similarities (or not) as you read. This method works well for textbooks or readings without an argument or claim.
These examples are only a few of many methods that exist for annotating readings. Give them a try, and if they do not work for you, find something that does and stick with it! As you get practiced with a particular annotation method, your productivity as a reader will go way up and the number of times you have to reread a paragraph because you get to the end and think “What in the heck did I just read?” will go way down! Happy reading!
If you’d like to learn more from Kyle about Writing and Reading Habits and Teaching Strategies, consider joining Page-Turners for Teaching, a new bi-weekly discussion group for grad students, medical students, postdocs, and residents interested in exploring their teaching practice with like-minded colleagues!
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