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Reading is easy, isn't it?

On any ordinary day without even noticing, you read shop signs, newspaper headlines, TV listings, a magazine, or a chapter of a paperback. So why would a message like this one appear in an online student chat room in the early weeks of a course?

Clearly, reading for higher level study is quite different from everyday reading. The most obvious differences are:

  • Quantity As a student you can find yourself reading for many more hours a week than usual.

  • Difficulty Instead of the message slipping easily into your mind, as when you read a newspaper or a paperback, you find yourself having to concentrate to grasp it.

But there are also more subtle differences:

  • Purpose Instead of reading to pick up information, or to be entertained, with studying your aim is to introduce yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking, which will enable you to understand the world differently.

  • Active engagement Studying involves actively working with new ideas, not just racing through the words. You have to look for the meaning as you read, asking yourself ‘what is the author trying to say?’

Research into how students read (see, for example, Entwistle 1997, p. 19) has shown that to be successful you need to understand these more hidden aspects of the reading process.

This unit is an adapted extract from the Good Study Guides [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .