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Speed reading science books

Not skip text, but have to read every page is left over from when we first learned how to read. As a result, readers still feel guilty if they find a novel dull and put it down before finishing it. Studies show that this is the reason many people drop Book-of-the-Month Club subscriptions: they begin to collect books, cannot keep up with their reading, and develop guilt feelings about owning books they have not had time to read. Forget the guilt! Read and learn what you need to.

Science writers use several different methods of writing their materials. Become acquainted with these patterns and learn to identify them. Once you are able to do this, it will be easy to employ the correct skill to gain the most from your reading. The most frequently used patterns include:

Science, like other subjects in school, requires a variety of reading skills if you are to achieve the highest levels of understanding. Not only will you be using the common reading skills, but also it will be necessary to learn and practice the special reading skills associated with this subject.

  1. The grouping or classification method
  2. The problem solving method
  3. The process method
  4. The cause and effect method
  5. The statement of fact method
  6. The experimental method

Seldom do you find and author using one writing method in his scientific discussion. Generally, he will use several patterns of development, which may complicate your reading unless you are able to quickly identify each style. Once you can identify the method, you can rapidly change your reading approach to suit that of the pattern.  

The grouping or classification method:

In this method, the central idea is emphasized in the topic sentence, followed by a consistent pattern of developing the what, how, and the thinking to arrive at the why. Information is given concerning certain groups of objects, processes, and living things, which belong or catalogued.

Skills needed in reading this type of science material include:

  • The ability to understand important groups within a larger classification.
  • Being able to distinguish between differences between classes.

Activity using the story:

  • Skim the main headings to find the main topic/topics and the smaller classifications.
  • Read the selection as a whole and note differences and likenesses between the classifications.
  • Find the "technical words" that you would need to understand this article.

Use glossaries

If you are reading large amounts of difficult technical material, it may be useful to photocopy or compile a glossary. Keep this beside you as you read. It will probably also be useful to note down the key concepts in your own words, and refer to them when necessary.

Reading an academic book

It's fairly obvious that reading an academic text isn't like diving into a juicy novel. For a start, sometimes it's just too hard to get a grip on the material on a first read-through. There are different ways of attacking your software material, however, whether you're doing an intensive analysis of just one chapter or skimming a whole text for the cream of the information.

Reading an academic book takes concentration. It's easy to get frustrated when you initially find a book difficult to understand at the first sitting. Reading an academic book is not like flipping through a magazine or even a work of fiction. Academic books take more time and effort. In some cases you may need to read a section of an article or book a number of times.

For intensive reading, read section by section or a few pages at a time. Read each section a few times over and make notes. If you are still finding the information difficult to understand, find other sources on the same topic. Go back to introductory books and then return to your original source for another try. However, do not discount the fact that what you are reading may be poorly written. Just because it is published does not mean it is well written. Remember this yourself in your own writing; long-winded sentences packed with big words do not make good writing or good reading. Look around for more clearly written pieces on the same topic by other authors.

Finding relevant information: let's go skimming

If you feel you have too many books and articles, there is a quick way to determine if they are useful. The quick reading or scanning technique is called 'skimming'. It is not meant to replace actual reading, but should be used to filter what information is relevant to your essay. When you have found a book, which seems to be relevant, use the table of contents and the index to find the relevant sections. With journal articles, read the abstract, introduction and conclusion and skim the subheadings. For skimming books, see the 'Handy hint' box below.


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