Have you ever been reading a book only to realize you didn’t absorb the past two paragraphs because your mind was wondering? In today’s fast-moving culture, it’s a huge problem. A lot of us have trouble focusing on the words on the page and making sense of them in our minds, which therefore makes our comprehension and absorption rates really low. For that reason, a lot of people do not enjoy reading.
In grade school, we focus on reading comprehension, but that focus tends to shift as we get older and those skills often do get lost. Let’s bring it back to 5th grade English class for a second and talk about some ways to improve your information retention rate when you read.
Have Clear Goals
When you’re reading a book like Harry Potter, your goal is obviously to enjoy a story. When you’re reading dense academic information, though, it’s a lot harder to get immersed. One way to retain information is to have a goal in mind. What is the discussion question you’ll need to respond to when you’re done? What’s the topic of your paper? Looking for specific bits of information in your reading can help you stay focused on it better and do some mental information sorting.
It seems so obvious, but highlighting is so crucial to information retention. When you have a highlighter in-hand, you’re actively looking for bits of information that are worthy of remembering. It’s a great way to trick yourself into actually absorbing the important parts of information. It’s also really useful if you plan on re-visiting the text later.
Skim if you Must
Reading articles online has bestowed upon us a love for skimming. Though you’re not going to be able to give the most detailed summary once you’ve finished, skimming will help you get an idea of the thesis and supporting points of a chapter or text. From there, you can decide which sections seemed important and re-visit them with a greater attention to detail. You can also simply decide to skim over small sections that aren’t crucial, instead of skimming the whole paper, in order to speed along the reading process while still reading the meat of the assignment.
Know your Attention Span, and Always Be Improving
Some people simply work better in shorter bursts. If you need to read for 20 minutes then break for 10, then do it. Read at the pace and intervals that work for you, as long as you allow yourself enough time to finish the reading. However, the more you read, the longer your attention span for reading should get. Practice on extending your sessions by five, ten, fifteen minutes so that you can get more done in one sitting as time goes on.