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Reading effectively for assignments
Anna Phillips anna.phillips@acu.edu.au Academic Skills Unit, MacKillop Campus

Outline
1. Reading and note-making in different contexts 2. Reading critically and evaluating sources 3. Analysing the assignment and beginning research 4. Reading for the assignment

Part 1
Reading and note-making in different contexts

1. Your reading strategies
Techniques for reading Techniques for finding • Novels • A place to rent • Newspapers
– Read fairly closely – Might skim if boring – Skim and scan for interesting items – read selected sections in detail

– Skim to locate area – Scan for information

• A phone number
– Skim alphabetically – Scan surnames

• Do you ever make notes?

Reading and note-making at university
• Are you using these strategies with your academic reading? – Lectures – Tutorials – Assignments – Exams • Do you take notes whilst reading? What techniques do you use?

Lectures: Background reading
• Pre-read and take notes as needed
– Prioritise. Skim and scan texts for relevance – Spend time on the key concepts, theories and expressions (highlight or jot down key points or questions) – Reflect on why these are important – Summarise the key ideas and the relationship between concepts/ideas (you can also add notes to the PowerPoint handouts)

Tutorials

For full participation, read the set texts
– Skim the readings for an overview (think about why they were set?) – Highlight key ideas. – Understand the ideas, the author’s purpose and the argument – Note anything interesting or difficult – Jot down any questions and try to answer them

Assignments
Find the appropriate sources (develop good research skills), then read .carefully, using the assignment question as a guide. – Skim books, journal articles and appropriate websites for relevance and credibility. – Scan for key information to support and challenge your position. – Read appropriate sections both critically and in detail. – Underline main points, note the line of argument, and the quality of the evidence. – Ensure reference details are accurate.

Exam preparation
Start with a review of all relevant notes from lectures, tutorials and assignments. – Review the angle taken by the lecturer and tutor towards the topic – Make new notes and/or concept maps integrating the above information – Review relevant textbook sections, set readings and other readings. – Practise different approaches to the same information

Some tips for note-taking
• Work out the text’s organisation first • Use a system that makes sense for you and you will still understand later • Use a consistent method – – – – – Columns Headings Colour Index cards Abbreviations

• Be selective • Consider concept maps and diagrams

Part 2
Reading critically and evaluating sources

Critical readers
• Recognise your own values and assumptions. • Recognising the writer’s values and assumptions. • Identifying and evaluating the writer’s arguments and conclusions. • Assessing the writer’s use of evidence. • Analysing your reaction to the text.

Critical evaluation of sources
• Sources include people, writers, organisations, books, journals, magazines, websites • Academic sources include: – journals (professional, academic) – articles (professional, academic, popular) – authors – some websites

Characteristics of credible sources:
• Authority
Is the writer an expert in the field and/or often quoted by others in the field? Is the source published in a reputable book or journal?

• Originality
Is the material original or merely a summary or paraphrase of previous information?

• Objectivity
Is the writer objective? If there is a slant or bias, is it acknowledged?

• Accuracy
Is the data credible and does it show expertise?

• Up to date
Is the information current?

• Coverage
Does the source cover the issue in depth or give only a cursory treatment?

Task: Evaluate these sources
– Wikipedia entry –...
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