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Reading strategies: A short guide

Different kinds of texts

Journal articles

Journal articles are usually laid out according to a set pattern which may include the following:  abstract, introduction that includes context or background, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, and a list of references. Analyse the abstract, introduction and conclusion in particular to get a quick overview of what the article is about. The author assumes you are already familiar with the topic so you may need to do extra reading to ‘catch up’ if you are not. The content is research based and very specific. 


Textbooks contain vast amounts of information often on many aspects of a subject. Do not feel obliged to read a textbook from cover to cover - you will get indigestion.Textbooks cover the basics you need to gain a thorough grasp of a subject. They often have tables and diagrams to present information simply and visually. Use the contents page and index to find the specific sections you need. 


These are books on a specific subject or topic which which might be very broad ranging, such as the history of sculpture in Greece from prehistoric times to the present day to the very specific such as the use of colour in Ancient Greek sculpture. Use the contents page and index to find the specific sections you need. In some disciplines e.g. Social Work you may need to use recently published books in others, such as Art History, books published fifty or more years ago may still  contain important information. However, do check if there are any recently published journal articles. Ask your Tutor for advice.

Reference works

Use dictionaries, encylopaedias, also spelt encyclopedias, etc. to familiarise yourself with the ideas and terminology and gain a quick overview of a topic

Websites and Social media  

See our guide Evaluating information  to understand the potential dangers of using some online information. Another problem with such sources is the distraction caused by adverts, clickbait and links to other websites that look really really interesting. It is essential that you stay focused on the task you have set yourself. Bookmark things to read later. Don't start reading something entertaining and call it 'a break' and then go back to your academic reading as this will blur the boundaries and you are more likely to waste time. See Creating the right environment for more about taking a break.

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