Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to read better: 4 general tips to reading better

A resource I gave to a class, trying to help them think not only about what they are reading, but how they are reading. It also allowed me to introduce some foundation tools in theology.

1. Start at the end
You never start a book/chapter/excerpt at the beginning. You always go to the end. First, that is where the conclusion is and that gives you the big picture. Second, since most people start at the beginning and often don’t quite have time to finish, you can more easily stand out from the crowd.

2. Think in pencil or red pen
As you read, always be recording your own work. This is what you are going to get credit for in an assignment/conversation. You want to be ticking what you agree, underling a reference you might want to chase further, noting a question you have, writing a connection you make.

When you come to write or to talk in a group, you don’t want to be scrambling through pages going “now where is it?” You want to quickly find your own work and say, “Well on page x where it says, I made me think of (last week’s lecture, something I read last week”

3. Write a summary in your own words
The best way to see if you can remember something is to use your own words. Try, in a few sentences to catch the major outline of the work. This also then stands you in great stead when you come to your assignments, because you can then turn them into a summary in your own words.

4. Know your tools
Every reading will probably have something you don’t fully understand or can’t quite recall. To help you read, you need to be able to understand words that are new or you’ve forgotten. It can also be helpful to place the reading in context or to read some actual words of original authors.

When it comes to theology, here are four tools I find helpful:


Posted by steve at 10:08 PM


  1. My number 5 would be: Read it twice.

    It can be time consuming but you can miss a lot the first time through. I’d guess that you’d retain at most 80% from the first read through but after a second read it should be about 96% (80-20 rule). In addition, re-reading is supposed to lead to greater “emotional connection and self-reflection” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reading_(visual_activity)).

    Comment by Charles — August 20, 2014 @ 9:56 am

  2. That’s really helpful Charles. Can I add that to the resource, with a note saying a commentator has added? Or would you like your full details?


    Comment by steve — August 21, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

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