Reading for detail can be a daunting and challenging task but proves important in graduate school. Time is valuable, so reading things repeatedly is impractical. Here are a few tips and tricks to understand what you are reading the first time.

Staying engaged in what you are reading is vital to reading for detail. How can you stay engaged in the reading? Annotating the writing as you read forces you to pay close attention and respond to what you are reading, consequently increasing your reading comprehension. Annotating can include noting anything specific that you are looking (e.g., key words and phrases), anything that seems particularly significant, and any questions that you may have.

Another way to focus when reading for detail is to look for particular patterns in the writing can not only keep you engaged but can also reveal more information about the writing. Ask yourself questions about any patterns that you notice, and look for the answers in the writing. Finding the main idea is key to understanding a piece of writing. You can easily find the main idea of writing by identifying the topic sentence in a paragraph. The final step in comprehending what you have read comes from your own conclusion. If you have read and fully comprehended the work, you should be able to develop a response to or opinion about what you have read.

Another important lesson about reading for graduate school is that you don’t necessarily have to read everything. In graduate school, it is not unheard of to be assigned 500 pages of reading a week for just one of your classes. On top of everything else that you have to do for you classes, it literally may not be possible to read everything that is assigned. Now, to be clear, we are not saying that you should not read for your classes; you will want to engage yourself in the reading so that you are able to keep up with class conversation. However, if you are able to focus and apply these reading for detail tips you will hopefully find a balance between understanding the topic being covered in the reading and completing the necessary amount of reading needed to gain that understanding.



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