198: Three Ways to Start Active Reading in Grad School

198: Three Ways to Start Active Reading in Grad School


In this episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast, I cover the topic of active reading strategies in graduate school. I specifically share three ways to start active reading today. They are: reading out of order and instead in a strategic order, developing a list of reading questions to pull critical information you need from your texts, and to identify your learning style to understand how you read and retain information best.

This episode is brought to you by the Grad School Femtoring Academy, my six week personal development and sustainable productivity program for first-gen BIPOCs. Shout out to my founding femtees to recommended this episode topic! If you want to join my waitlist for the next cohort of GSF Academy femtees, go here.

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Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:02

Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette. And today's episode, I am going to be sharing three ways to start active reading in grad school. Let me share with you what active reading is, if you haven't heard about this concept, active reading refers to anything that you do prior to reading a text to familiarize yourself with it. This can include doing things like scanning it, skimming it, reading a book, review about it, reading a summary, reading the abstract, or even reading the intro, and conclusion first.

It also involves any strategies that you incorporate while you're reading it to make sure that you're increasing your understanding and critical thinking about the text. And this includes knowing exactly what information you need from the text to actively start searching for it. And let me let me tell you one thing, when I was in grad school, I don't think I was conscious about the concept of active reading. Although I did find myself experimenting and trying different things. One thing that I wish that I learned early on was my learning style. And I'll talk more about learning styles soon. I didn't know my learning style was that I'm an auditory learner. And therefore, it was hard for me to read. And I felt guilty when I would read book reviews. I felt guilty when I would skim the text. I felt guilty when I was trying to figure out from different sources in places what this text was about before actually reading it, because I thought that that wasn't okay to do. And in fact, it's it's funny now, because those are the things that I'm encouraging you to do to increase your comprehension of the text.

And so, today, I'm going to talk about three different ways to actively who read three strategies, there are others, but these are the ones that I'm familiar with. And I didn't want to overwhelm you with too many strategies. So try one of these three things out, and then come back, let me know how it went for you. The first one, the first active reading strategy I'm going to share today is what I referenced earlier, which is reading out of order.

For instance, if you are a STEM student, you might be reading some sort of scientific paper, and you decide that you're going to read the intro and conclusion first, after that, maybe you decide you want to read the results section next, then you might determine that you actually don't read, you actually don't need to read the entire method section, you might skim that. Unless, of course, you're reading that article precisely because of their methods, then that would be the exception. Then you might go on to reading the discussion. And after that, you determine you're going to skim the rest. Okay, I'm not telling you that this is exactly how you should approach reading all articles. But what I am saying is that you can develop your own system for actively reading that doesn't always require reading materials, word per word and in chronological order.

I tend it to read out of chronological order to try to figure out like, what are the most important things from a text. I noticed that when I would read books, I definitely had to pay close attention to the intro. And then I could find one of the chapters that most closely related to my work and focus on that one too. And then the rest, I would skim. And again, I shamed myself for doing this, but there is no shame and doing what you need to do to get the information that you need to get from the readings that you are having to comb through. As a graduate student, you likely have a lot more reading to do than you ever experienced in undergrad. And especially if you have exams. I had first year exams with lots of reading lists. And then many people have qualifying exams with again, lots of reading lists. There is always an endless number of articles that you can read as you continue on with your research and your career. And so do what you can to work best and identify active reading strategies that will help you get what you need out of these texts.

The first one I mentioned reading out of order, the second active reading strategy is developing your own list of suggested reading questions. And these are questions that you have developed for yourself to identify the information that you need from these texts. And I'll share with you some of my questions that I asked myself. And then I pulled them and added them to a spreadsheet. And for all of my readings when I had my qualifying exams, I think also when I had my first year exams, I made sure to answer these questions for each of them.

The first is, what is the topic? Then, what is the scope? And by that, I mean, what's the focus? What are the boundaries of the research? What is the main argument or finding? Who or what are they arguing against? This is especially key in my field and the humanities, when some scholars are actually blatantly arguing against other scholars in their work. What kind of theory or conceptual framework is this author proposing? Theories, frameworks can be especially helpful because you might incorporate them within your work as well. You can ask yourself through what frames of reference is this theory or framework understood? Sometimes, to understand one theory, you have to understand other stuff that came before it, it's good to know that.

What is the disciplinary location of this piece? I have this question for myself, because I was in an interdisciplinary program, and not everything I read was in one discipline. And so the conventions different depending on the discipline of the article that I was reading. I might be reading an article in anthropology, and theater and performance studies, and world arts and cultures, in sociology, in higher education. So my work spanned across a lot of different fields, it was good for me to know the disciplinary location of whatever I was reading. Next is, what methodologies were used? And I'm gonna mention this for those of you in the humanities, sometimes you might not be explicitly taught to think about your methods, although we do have methods in the humanities. So think about in the humanities, specifically, what are the authors or texts that this author is relying on to develop their argument? Next, you want to think about, when this piece was published? You might notice that some of the readings in your reading lists are from a while back, they are probably foundational texts. And that's why you're reading them. Others might be more recent, they might have been published within the last 10 years or so. Those might be more emerging work, it's good to know the differences and the distinctions.

And you can also ask yourself, How is this text placed in intellectual history? What was the context of its writing? How has it been used since? Especially with the more canonical work with the work that you're expected to know and your discipline. It's good to know the history of it and how it has been used and continues to be used. How does this text intersect with others looked at in this course, in my reading list, or even in my own work? You want to put it in conversation with other readings and not just think about it as an isolated thing. It's not. It's in conversation with others, even if it's not explicitly in conversation with others, you're the one that's going to put it in conversation with others as you do your own research.

You also want to take note of any gaps of any strengths, of the costs of the benefits. What does this approach allow the author to accomplish? What insights does they restrict or include was not mentioned in this piece? And then of course, it's super duper important to think about how useful this work is for my research? How could this theory or framework be applied in my own work? Other things you might want to keep in mind if you develop a spreadsheet of your own or some sort of set of reading questions of your own is keeping track of abstracts. Abstracts can be helpful, so you can quickly remember what that article was about. Also, saving any major research questions just again to remember the piece, you might want to keep track of key terms that will help you to put it in conversation with other pieces that might have shared key terms and you might want to save especially useful or important quotes that you know, you'll want to cite later. That's the second active reading strategy is developing your own strategic reading questions so that you know exactly what you're trying to search for when you're reading this text.

Now, the last active reading strategy, which is what I mentioned earlier, is identifying your learning style and then reading material in a way that aligns with that learning style. Like I said, I wish I would have known I was an auditory learner. I wish I would have had access to audio books and text to speech options back then. But you know what, I'm taking full advantage of it now. And I think I'm reading and learning more than I ever did before. And that's a lot to say, considering I learned and read a lot in grad school. So let's talk about it. Let's talk about reading, not reading styles, learning styles.

There are three primary learning styles. There are those that are visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. And one thing to keep in mind is that you might have a combination of learning styles. You might be an audio visual learner, or you might be visual and kinesthetic. And one thing that I can do is link, one quiz, a learning style quiz that you can take if you're unsure of what your learning style is. That way you can figure it out, and then come back and re listen to this episode and figure out what you can try out that might work for you.

If you are a visual learner, you can read more actively by printing out your materials. Or if you feel bad about that, you can always use a tablet with a pencil and highlight what you read in different colors. I tried to do that it looked pretty. But you know what, it did not work for me. But I know it does work for some folks. You can also create a mind map, you can create venn diagrams to reflect on the information that you just learned. You might also benefit from adding sticky notes or using multicolored pens when not taking anything to increase the visual aspect is going to help you. Like I said I tried it. But I didn't realize I wasn't a visual learner, which is why it wasn't effective for me.

If you are an auditory learner, one thing that you can do, which I again mentioned is incorporate text to speech tools that you can take advantage of and listen to the articles or books your need to read. There are a lot of text to speech options within your accessibility settings for most computers, tablets and cell phones. There are also text to speech apps like Speechify and Natural Reader that you can check out and see if you like that. There are even apps that have ebooks, and websites I know of open libraries, a website where you can check out books that you would at a library. And a lot of times when you open up the ebook, it gives you that text to speech option to listen to it, which is great. Another thing that you can do is start dictating your notes so that you can go back and re listen to yourself. It'll help you to process what you're learning. Sometimes even I go back and listen to my own podcast episodes. I'm like, what did I say about that? I don't remember. I go back and relisten to it. I'm like, oh, yeah, now I remember. It reinforces the material. You can also have study buddies to discuss material together to reinforce what you're learning. It's so great to have discussions, and it's especially helpful to teach what you're learning.

You know what no matter what no matter what learning style you have, teaching, what you are learning is a great and effective method to make sure that you are actually fully consuming and understanding the material. That's why I love teaching because I know that as soon as I can teach it effectively to someone else. That means that I know it pretty well. So teaching is great for all learning styles.

But let's go back to the last learning style, which is the kinesthetic learner. If you are a kinesthetic learner take advantage of anything that gets you moving or working with your hands and body. This can include taking lots of movement breaks, or it can include moving while you're reading. I know I've seen before folks who cycle and, um, their cycling machine, they have a spot to put their book and they're slowly but surely cycling and reading their books. I don't know how they do it, I know that would distract me. But you know what, it works for some people and it might work for you. Another thing you can do is use flashcards, or anything tactile that you can use to reinforce your learning. And even better than that handwriting your material is, excuse me, it's probably even better for you. And in some cases, you can re hand write your notes to reinforce what you're learning because of the tactile form.

Some folks even use mnemonics and mnemonics is when you figure out a way to memorize something in a way that that works for you, sometimes a mnemonic might be using something that sounds like something else or acronyms. Or maybe you use your body in some way, you gesture in some way that reminds you of something, reminds you of a concept that helps you to retain what you're reading. Anyway, as you can tell, I am not a kinesthetic learner, I'm still learning ways to help individuals who are more kinesthetic learners. I think my son is a combination of an auditory and kinesthetic learner. And so it's definitely an area that I want to learn more about. Because if we figure out what works for different learning styles, we can help each other we can help one another as we continue learning and reading actively.

That's it for this week. And before I go, I want to shout out my founding femtees. I'm recording this in the middle of my first cohort of the Grad School Femtoring Academy, and my founding femtees recommended requested this topic and so that's why I'm recording this. They get to listen to it at the end of May. I believe the rest of the public is going to be listening to this sometime in July. And if you're into this kind of information if you want to learn more about sustainable productivity, about personal development, feel free to sign up for my waitlist for the next cohort. You can learn more about my Grad School Femtoring Academy by going to gradschoolfemtoring.com/academy

Alright y'all, I hope you found this helpful and I will talk to you all next time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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