Beginning to Read

Reading at university is one of the things that a lot of students dread. However, sharpening your reading techniques through the advice in these pages will allow you to make the most of your reading, and shape your reading technique to your preferences and the task in hand. 

What to Read?

Don’t panic; no one is expecting you to walk into a Library and find something to read on your first day! As part of your degree you will learn how to access, manipulate and evaluate information; all vital to your developing research skills. If you are unsure of what to read for your course, there are a number of resources you can consult for guidance.

Your assignment title – your assignment title will have big clues with regards to the reading you will need to undertake. They will have some themes which can guide your Discovery searches. The essay directive will also shape the type of enquiry you need to perform and guide your reading. Click here for more information on Essay Questions.

Lecture & seminar notes – During these sessions, your lecturers might include the details of sources, or allude to certain publications. Be sure to follow these up in the Library; and if the Library doesn’t have it, consider placing an InterLibrary Loan or filling out a More Books Request.

Module guides & reading lists – Make sure you check out the recommended reading for your course, as these are texts that have been handpicked by your lecturers as relevant to your course; so all the hard work has been done for you! These materials don’t stick around long in the Library, so make use of the reservation system if items are unavailable, or request more copies through the More Books scheme.

Your lecturer – Your lecturer will be an invaluable resource for sources to read, as very often they will have read the materials themself, and in some cases, they might have written it!

Others on your course – If you find some good material, why not share it with the rest of your class? Finding readings and then sharing them is good practice and a fundamental skill in research.

Secondary sources – Let your reading naturally lead you to more reading! This refers to the articles and readings you find within another reading. For example, if you are reading a text by Jones, and they cite Smith – who is an absolute expert on the topic you are studying – you might want to look for the Smith reference in the Jones book and then follow it up on Discovery!

Reading Different Texts

When you begin to study at University, one of the challenges can be engaging with unfamiliar texts. Journal articles may present a range of challenges in terms of structure and comprehension, and you wouldn’t be alone in thinking that some are written in total gibberish! Yet they are an invaluable resource for your learning and making the most of journal content is accomplished through development of your reading skills. Like any skills, reading skills can be improved and mastered over time, with the right techniques and strategies. Here are a number of resources you might find helpful to guide your engagement with different texts:

Reading for Writing

One of the main reasons you will read at University is to inform the arguments you make in your written assignments. Evidence is key to a successful argument and this can only be discovered through reading and research. 


Click here to download some notemaking templates:

Critical Reading Grid

Compare & Contrast Grid 


Integrating Evidence 


Useful Sources for Beginning to Read


Reading to Write – UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center

Reading Strategies – UNSW Sydney

Critical reading activities – Florida State University


The Use of Mindmapping – XMind

Notetaking template for Journal Articles – UNC Chapel Hill Learning Center