There are plenty of reasons why you may need to retain the information you read. You may be learning the lines to a play, or you may have to write a report on the text, you may even be revising for an exam in which you will be tested on the content. No matter what your reasons, you will find these tips incredibly useful.
Your mind needs a reason to engage. You may “know” you are reading something to learn it, but go a little further and determine what you intend to get out of the process. If you are already aware that the text may be boring, then set yourself goals on how much you will get done, how much you may absorb, and how much attention you are going to pay to each chapter. The latter element is important because you cannot assume that you will find all chapters equally engaging or useful. Maybe give yourself a break and allow yourself to skim read a few of the less important chapters.
Actually look over the page before you start reading. It may seem like a waste of time, but try a quick skim read before you actually read the text. It seems like you are wasting valuable seconds, but you are trying to learn what is on the page, so it pays to assign a little more time and attention to the task. As you skim read, your mind may grasp a few of the concepts or ideas within the text. As you fully read the page, you may notice that some of the concepts and ideas stick with you a little better than they may have done otherwise. Again, it seems like a bit of a time vampire, but the benefits will pay off eventually.
Before you read, take a look at the contents page, and skip through to a few of the more interesting chapters. Allow your eyes to adjust not only to the type of text, but also to the way it is written and structured. It will help you grasp the text and the meaning a little quicker, especially during the first few chapters as you are adjusting to the way the text is written and the way it gets its message across. Even the way the writer formats the text may affect how quickly and how well you absorb the information.
There are times when a piece of text may be interpreted into images. For example, it is far easier to imagine what is going on if you are reading a piece of fiction, and you may find that you remember a fictional narrative better than an academic piece. If you are studying an academic piece, then try to put the concepts into visual images. Do not simply read of the bonds between elements; try to imagine them in your mind as visual images. Think of how cell membranes may allow certain molecules through, or how a piece of granite may be formed.
Many people do not understand the point of highlighting, and you may be one of those, even though it is one of the more common ways to retain more of the information you read. They pick out points they think are relevant and highlight sentence after sentence, and then come back to it a few months later and find only psychedelic patches of color. The point of highlighting elements of text is so you may quickly skim read and recall what was on the page without having to re-read it all. Highlight concepts and the points that will enable you to look back at the text and quickly understand what it is all about without having to re-read the whole thing again.
After a while, you may notice yourself skim reading when you are supposed to be absorbing. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to stop reading for a while and take a break. Do something that does not require your attention. Some students take a ten-minute nap on their bed, setting their alarm, so that they may restart reading with a clearer head. It may sound dull and frankly boring, but it gets the job done.
If you are learning lines or have to learn a piece of text so that you may verbally recall it later, then rehearse the piece as you go. Read a paragraph, and then re-read it whilst saying it aloud. Insert the cadence and inflections that you would normally speak if you were saying the text from the top of your head. If there are parts you do not understand, or parts that you feel are most easily forgotten, then recite them as you would recite the times tables if you were learning them. It is an antiquated way of learning, but is still suitable upon occasion.
Reading things to retain information is harder these days. Those who have embraced the digital age have also developed the habit of skim reading (how many of you read only the headline in the articles on this site?). Reading to retain information is definitely a skill we still need – agreed?
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