Skills for Business and Management

by Martin Sedgley

Academic Reading

Videos coming soon

Five steps to effective academic reading

The students in the video clips reflect the common experience of being overwhelmed at first by the volume and complexity of research that seems to be expected by business and management tutors. You need a reliable process that you can apply again and again to effectively deselect all but the most relevant texts.

Whilst every assignment is different, the process to search and select texts follows a similar basic structure. Box 1 in Chapter 5 provides a five-stage model for effective academic reading, and it is reproduced below. The model is designed to save you significant time and effort in what will otherwise become your biggest challenge as a university student.

Five-stage model of effective academic reading

1. Establish an explicit purpose for your reading. In the early stages, this will be to research ideas to answer a specific question that has been set for a tutorial / seminar or a written assignment.

2. Identify several different texts that may be relevant to your question. Select only the most important of these of these by skimming through the key sections, e.g. abstract, summary.

3. Scan these texts quickly to highlight only the sections that relate directly to your specific reading purpose.

4. Read in detail those highlighted sections of writing. You are seeking to understand in depth only these key points so that you can apply your interpretations into tutorial discussions or your assignment writing.

5. Synthesise the reading into writing, either directly into drafts for assignments, or notes for tutorials.

First steps for efficient academic reading
Explanation of starting an inductive research trail with a basic set of core texts – Stages 1 and 2 of the model shown in the above box. Length – 3.24.

Scanning and detailed reading
Explanations of scanning technique to highlight key points for careful study. Stages 3 and 4 of the model. Length – 1.59

You can study more effectively by adopting a highly selective approach to academic reading – by dismissing large sections of any text that are not directly related to your purpose. A first step in this selective reading process is to scan read your chosen text. This involves reading quickly and continuously, only looking for words or phrases that ‘jump out at you’ because they connect directly with the key concepts of your reading purpose. Your only objective during scanning is to capture the important points that you can revisit later to study more carefully for full understanding.

Exercise: Scanning an academic text for key points

You can practise scanning in this activity. The textbook extract below has been identified as a potential source for relevant ideas to include in an essay with the following title:

‘Staff perceptions of belonging to a team play a key role in determining motivation levels.’ Discuss this proposition with reference to relevant motivational theory.

As you scan quickly through the extract, do not stop or check back to verify your understanding. Simply note any points that instinctively seem relevant to the above reading purpose, and then move on. If you were reading this in printed form, you could highlight those points in some way. You should easily find four or five points indicating a connection between team-belonging and motivation. Aim to reach the end of this extract within two minutes, recognising the key points as you do so.

Textbook extract - click here to download.

Now check the answers to see if you found the same points of relevance. These, and only these, are the points that you would then go back to study carefully for ideas to take into your assignment writing - as indicated in Stages 4 and 5 of the effective academic reading model.

To make notes or not?
Recommended approach of making notes for tutorial preparation, but writing directly into drafts for course-work. Length – 3.44