How to Read a Book r6

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HowtoReadaBook,v5.0PaulN.EdwardsSchoolofInformationUniversityofMichiganpne.people.si.umich.edu ThisworkislicensedunderaCreativeCommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike4.0InternationalLicense.Thetermsofthislicenceallowyoutoremix,tweak,andbuilduponthisworknon-commercially,aslongasyoucreditmeandlicenseyournewcreationsundertheidenticalterms.Quasi-permanentURL:pne.people.si.umich.edu/PDF/howtoread.pdfPaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook1Howcanyoulearnthemostfromabookoranyotherpieceofwritingwhenyou'rereadingforinformation,ratherthanforpleasure?Itssatisfyingtostartatthebeginningandreadstraightthroughtotheend.Somebooks,suchasnovels,havetobereadthisway,sinceabasicprincipleoffictionistoholdthereaderinsuspense.Yourwholepurposeinreadingfictionistofollowthewriterslead,allowinghimorhertospinastorybitbybit.Butmanyofthebooks,articles,andotherdocumentsyoullreadduringyourundergraduateandgraduateyears,andpossiblyduringtherestofyourprofessionallife,wontbenovels.Instead,theyllbenon-fiction:textbooks,manuals,journalarticles,histories,academicstudies,andsoon.Thepurposeofreadingthingslikethisistogain,andretain,information.Here,findingoutwhathappensasquicklyandeasilyaspossibleisyourmaingoal.Sounlessyourestuckinprisonwithnothingelsetodo,NEVERreadanon-fictionbookorarticlefrombeginningtoend.Instead,whenyourereadingforinformation,youshouldALWAYSjumpahead,skiparound,anduseeveryavailablestrategytodiscover,thentounderstand,andfinallytorememberwhatthewriterhastosay.Thisishowyoullgetthemostoutofabookinthesmallestamountoftime.Usingthemethodsdescribedhere,youshouldbeabletoreada300-pagebookinsixtoeighthours.Ofcourse,themoretimeyouspend,themoreyoulllearnandthebetteryoullunderstandthebook.Butyourtimeislimited.Herearesomestrategiestohelpyoudothiseffectively.Mostofthesecanbeappliednotonlytobooks,butalsotoanyotherkindofnon-fictionreading,fromarticlestowebsites.Table1,onthenextpage,summarizesthetechniques,andthefollowingpagesexplaintheminmoredetail.Readthewholething!Inreadingtolearn,yourgoalshouldalwaysbetogetallthewaythroughtheassignment.Itsmuchmoreimportanttohaveageneralgraspoftheargumentsorhypotheses,evidence,andconclusionsthantounderstandeverydetail.Infact,nomatterhowcarefullyyouread,youwontremembermostofthedetailsanyway.Whatyoucandoisrememberandrecordthemainpoints.Andifyourememberthose,youknowenoughtofindthematerialagainifyoueverdoneedtorecallthedetails.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook2Table1.SummaryofreadingstrategiesandtechniquesStrategiesandtechniques RationaleReadthewholethingMajorargumentsandevidencemattermorethandetails.Graspingthestructureofthewholeismoreimportantthanreadingeveryword.DecidehowmuchtimeyouwillspendReal-worldtimeislimited.Ifyouknowexactlyhowlongyoucanactuallyspendonreading,youcanplanhowmuchtimetodevotetoeachitem.HaveapurposeandastrategyYou'llenjoyreadingmore,andrememberitbetter,ifyouknowexactlywhyyou'rereading.ReadactivelyNeverrelyontheauthor'sstructuresalone.Movearoundinthetext,followingyourowngoals.ReaditthreetimesFirsttimeforoverviewanddiscovery.Secondtimefordetailandunderstanding.Thirdtimefornote-takinginyourownwords.FocusonpartswithhighinformationcontentTablesofcontents,pictures,charts,headings,andotherelementscontainmoreinformationthanbodytext.UsePTML(personaltextmarkuplanguage)Markupyourreadingwithyourownnotes.Thishelpsyoulearnandalsohelpsyoufindimportantpassageslater.Knowtheauthor(s)andorganizationsAuthorsarepeoplewithbackgroundsandbiases.Theyworkinorganizationsthatgivethemcontextanddepth.KnowtheintellectualcontextMostacademicwritingispartofanongoingintellectualconversation,withdebates,keyfigures,andparadigmaticconcepts.UseyourunconsciousmindLeavetimebetweenreadingsessionsforyourmindtoprocessthematerial.Rehearse,andusemultiplemodesTalking,visualizing,orwritingaboutwhatyou'vereadhelpsyourememberit.DecidehowmuchtimeyouwillspendIfyouknowinadvancethatyouhaveonlysixhourstoread,itllbeeasiertopaceyourself.Remember,youregoingtoreadthewholebook(orthewholeassignment).PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook3Infact,themoredirectlyandrealisticallyyouconfrontyourlimits,themoreeffectiveyouwillbeatpracticallyeverything.Settingtimelimitsandkeepingtothem(whileaccomplishingyourgoals)isoneofthemostimportantlifeskillsyoucanlearn.Soneverstarttoreadwithoutplanningwhentostop.HaveapurposeandastrategyBeforeyoubegin,figureoutwhyyouarereadingthisparticularbook,andhowyouaregoingtoreadit.Ifyoudonthavereasonsandstrategiesofyourownnotjustthoseofyourteacheryouwontlearnasmuch.Assoonasyoustarttoread,begintryingtofindoutfourthings:Whoistheauthor?Whatarethebooksarguments?Whatistheevidencethatsupportsthese?Whatarethebooksconclusions?Onceyouvegotagriponthese,starttryingtodetermine:Whataretheweaknessesofthesearguments,evidence,andconclusions?Whatdoyouthinkaboutthearguments,evidence,andconclusions?Howdoes(orhowcould)theauthorrespondtotheseweaknesses,andtoyourowncriticisms?Keepcomingbacktothesequestionsasyouread.Bythetimeyoufinish,youshouldbeabletoanswerthemall.Threegoodwaystothinkaboutthisare:a)Imaginethatyouregoingtoreviewthebookforamagazine.b)Imaginethatyourehavingaconversation,oraformaldebate,withtheauthor.c)Imagineanexaminationonthebook.Whatwouldthequestionsbe,andhowwouldyouanswerthem?ReadactivelyDontwaitfortheauthortohammeryouoverthehead.Instead,fromtheverybeginning,constantlygeneratehypotheses(themainpointofthebookisthat...)andquestions(Howdoestheauthorknowthat...?)aboutthebook.Makingbriefnotesaboutthesecanhelp.Asyouread,trytoconfirmyourhypothesesandansweryourquestions.Onceyoufinish,reviewthese.Knowtheauthor(s)andorganizationsKnowingwhowroteabookhelpsyoujudgeitsqualityandunderstanditsfullsignificance.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook4Authorsarepeople.Likeanyoneelse,theirviewsareshapedbytheireducations,theirjobs,theirearlylives,andtherestoftheirexperiences.Alsolikeanyoneelse,theyhaveprejudices,blindspots,desperatemoments,failings,anddesiresaswellasinsights,brilliance,objectivity,andsuccesses.Noticeallofit.Mostauthorsbelongtoorganizations:universities,corporations,governments,newspapers,magazines.Theseorganizationseachhavecultures,hierarchiesofpower,andsocialnorms.Organizationsshapebothhowaworkiswrittenandthecontentofwhatitsays.Forexample,universityprofessorsareexpectedtowritebooksand/orjournalarticlesinordertogettenure.Thesepiecesofwritingmustmeetcertainstandardsofquality,definedchieflybyotherprofessors;forthem,contentusuallymattersmorethangoodwriting.Journalists,bycontrast,areoftendrivenbydeadlinesandtheneedtopleaselargeaudiences.Becauseofthis,theirstandardsofqualityareoftendirectedmoretowardclearandengagingwritingthantowardunimpeachablecontent;theirsourcesareusuallyoralratherthanwritten.Themoreyouknowabouttheauthorandhis/herorganizationand/ordiscipline,thebetteryouwillbeabletoevaluatewhatyouread.Trytoanswerquestionslikethese:Whatshapedtheauthorsintellectualperspective?Whatishisorherprofession?Istheauthoranacademic,ajournalist,aprofessional(doctor,lawyer,industrialscientist,etc.)?Expertise?Otherbooksandarticles?Intellectualnetwork(s)?Gender?Race?Class?Politicalaffiliation?Whydidtheauthordecidetowritethisbook?When?Forwhataudience(s)?Whopaidfortheresearchwork(privatefoundations,governmentgrantagencies,industrialsponsors,etc.)?Whowrotejacketblurbsinsupportofthebook?Youcanoften(thoughnotalways)learnaboutmuchofthisfromtheacknowledgments,thebibliography,andtheauthorsbiographicalstatement.KnowtheintellectualcontextKnowingtheauthorandhis/herorganizationalsohelpsyouunderstandthebooksintellectualcontext.Thisincludestheacademicdiscipline(s)fromwhichitdraws,schoolsofthoughtwithinthatdiscipline,andotherswhoagreewithoropposetheauthorsviewpoint.Abookisalmostalwayspartlyaresponsetootherwriters,soyoullunderstandabookmuchbetterifyoucanfigureoutwhat,andwhom,itisanswering.Payspecialattentiontopointswheretheauthortellsyoudirectlythats/heisdisagreeingwithothers:Conventionalwisdomholdsthatx,butIargueinsteadthaty.(Isxreallyconventionalwisdom?Amongwhatgroupofpeople?)FamousJaneScholarsaysthatx,butIwillshowthaty.(WhosFamousJane,andwhydootherpeoplebelieveher?Howplausiblearexandy?Istheauthorstrainingtofindsomethingoriginaltosay,orhass/hegenuinelyconvincedyouthatFamousJaneiswrong?)Equallyimportantarethepeopleandwritingstheauthorcitesinsupportofhis/herarguments.ReaditthreetimesThisisthekeytechnique.Youllgetthemostoutofthebookifyoureaditthreetimeseachtimeforadifferentpurpose.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook5a)Overview:discovery(5-10percentoftotaltime) Hereyoureadveryquickly,followingtheprinciple(describedbelow)ofreadingforhighinformationcontent.Yourgoalistodiscoverthebook.Youwantaquick-and-dirty,unsophisticated,generalpictureofthewriterspurpose,methods,andconclusions.Markwithoutreadingcarefullyheadings,passages,andphrasesthatseemimportant(youllreadthesemorecloselythesecondtimearound.)Generatequestionstoansweronyoursecondreading:whatdoestermorphraseXmean?WhydoesnttheauthorcoversubjectY?WhoisZ?b)Detail:understanding(70-80percentoftotaltime) Withinyourtimeconstraints,readthebookasecondtime.Thistime,yourgoalisunderstanding:togetacareful,critical,thoughtfulgraspofthekeypoints,andtoevaluatetheauthorsevidenceforhis/herpoints.Focusespeciallyonthebeginningsandendsofchaptersandmajorsections.Payspecialattentiontothepassagesyoumarkedonthefirstround.Trytoansweranyquestionsyougeneratedonthefirstround.c)Notes:recallandnote-taking(10-20percentoftotaltime)Thepurposeofyourthirdandfinalreadingistocommittomemorythemostimportantelementsofthebook.Thistime,makebriefnotesaboutthearguments,evidence,andconclusions.Thisisnotatallthesamethingastextmarkup;yourgoalhereistoprocessthematerialbytranslatingintoyourownmentalframework,whichmeansusingyourownwordsasmuchaspossible.Cuttingandpastingsegmentsoftextfromthebookwillnotdoasmuchforyouassummarizingverybrieflyinyourownwords.Includethebareminimumofdetailtoletyourememberandre-locatethemostimportantthings.1-3pagesofnotesper100pagesoftextisagoodgoaltoshootfor;morethanthatisoftentoomuch.Usesomesystemthatletsyoueasilyfindplacesinthebook(e.g.,starteachnotewithapagenumber.)Notebooks,typedpages,orhandwrittensheetstuckedintothebookcanallwork.However,noteswillbeuselessunlessyoucaneasilyfindthemagain.AverygoodsystemtheoneIuseistotypenotesdirectlyintobilbiographyentriesusingcitationmanagersoftwaresuchasEndnote,Zotero,orBookends.Seebelowformoreoncitationmanagers.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook6OntimeandtimingFirst,becausehumanattentionfadesafteraboutanhour,youllgetmoreoutofthreeone-hourreadingsthanyoucouldevergetoutofonethree-hourreading.Butbecareful:togetonefullhourofeffectivereading,youneedtosetasideatleastonehourandfifteenminutes,sincedistractionisinevitableatthebeginning(settlingin)andend(re-arousalforyournexttask)ofanyreadingperiod.Second,makearealisticplanthatincludeshowmuchtimeyouwilldevotetoeachofthethreestages.Fora250-pagebook,Imightspend15minutesonoverview,4hoursondetailedreading,and20-30minutesmakingnotesbutI'dadjusttheseperiodsupordowndependingonhowdifficultthetextis,howimportantitistome,andhowmuchtimeIhave.FocusonthepartswithhighinformationcontentNon-fictionbooksveryoftenhaveanhourglassstructurethatisrepeatedatseverallevelsoforganization.Moregeneral(broader)informationistypicallypresentedatthebeginningsandendsof:thebookorarticleasawhole(abstract,introduction,conclusion)eachchaptereachsectionwithinachaptereachparagraphMorespecific(narrower)information(supportingevidence,details,etc.)thenappearsinthemiddleofthehourglass. General General SpecificTheHourglassInformationStructurePaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook7Youcanmakethehourglassstructureofwritingdoalotofworkforyou.Focusonthefollowingelements,inmoreorlessthefollowingorder:Frontandbackcovers,innerjacketflapsTableofcontentsIndex:scanthistoseewhicharethemostimportanttermsBibliography:tellsyouaboutthebookssourcesandintellectualcontextPrefaceand/orIntroductionand/orAbstractConclusionPictures,graphs,tables,figures:imagescontainmoreinformationthantextChapterintroductionsandconclusionsSectionheadingsSpecialtypeorformatting:boldface,italics,numbereditems,listsUsePTML(personaltextmarkuplanguage)Always,always,alwaysmarkupyourreading.Thisisacriticalpartofactivereading.Dothisfromtheverybeginningevenonyourfirst,overviewreading.Why?Becausewhenyoucomebacktothebooklater,yourmarksreducetheamountyouhavetolookatandhelpyouseewhatsmostsignificant.Dontmarktoomuch.Thisdefeatsthepurposeofmarkup;whenyouconsultyourmarkuplater,heavymarkupwillforceyoutore-readunimportantinformation.Asarule,youshouldaveragenomorethantwoorthreeshortmarksperpage.Ratherthanunderlinewholesentences,underlinewordsorshortphrasesthatcapturewhatyoumostneedtoremember.Thepointofthisistodistill,reduce,eliminatetheunnecessary.Writewordsandphrasesinthemarginsthattellyouwhatparagraphsorsectionsareabout.Useyourownwords.Pagevs.screenPrintedmaterialhasfarhigherresolution(~600dpi)thaneventhebestcomputerscreens(~100dpi);seetheillustrationof300vs.600dpi,below.Forthisreasonyouwillreadmoreaccurately,andwithlessfatigue,ifyoustickwiththepaperversion.Still,weinevitablyreadmuchmorescreen-basedmaterialnow.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook8Markuponthescreen:Itremainsdifficulttomarkupscreen-basedmaterialseffectively.Theextrastepsinvolvedaredistracting,asisthetemptationtocheckemailorwebsurf.Also,withscreen-basedmarkupyouoftenhavetoclickonanoteinordertoreadit,whichmeansyourelesslikelytodoitlater.Itremainsfareasiertomarkupaprintedcopy!However,ifyouredisciplined,recentversionsofAcrobat,ApplePreview,andthird-partyPDFviewerssuchasPDFpen,iAnnotate,andGoodreaderallowyoutoaddcomments,highlighting,andsoontoPDFs.Voicerecognitioncanmakethisaloteasier.Today,IroutinelyreadandannotatePDFsonaniPad,usingvoicerecognitionwhenIwanttomakeanote.Someofthesereaders,aswellasebookreaderssuchasKindle,allowyoutoexportonlyyourhighlightsandnotes.Thisisagreatwaytomakeyourselfacondensedversionofadocument.Pasteitintothenotesfieldofyourcitationmanageranditllalwaysbeatyourfingertips.Huntaroundonthewebforwaystodothiskindofthingonanindustrialscale(especiallywithKindlebooks).Whentakingnotesaboutsomethingyou'rereading(asopposedtomarkingupthetext),you'llbetemptedtocutandpastetheoriginaltextinlieuofmakingyourownnotesinyourownwords.Cut-and-pastecansometimesworkwell,especiallyforthingsyoumightwanttoquotelater.However:ingeneralitdefeatsthetwomainpurposesofnote-taking:(a)learningandremembering(byrephrasinginyourownterms),and(b)condensingintoaveryshortform.Thesameistrueoflinks:thoughusefulforkeepingtrackofsources,keepingaURLwillnotbyitselfhelpyourememberorunderstandwhat'sthere,eventhoughitmayfeelthatway.UseacitationmanagerItshardtooveremphasizethehugeadvantagesofcitationmanagersoftwaresuchasEndnote,Bookends,Zotero,Mendeley,CiteULike,etc.Theyletyoukeeptrackofyourgrowinglibrary,easilyenterandformatcitationsinyourwordprocessor(savingyoutheincredibleirritationofdoingityourself).Mostofthemcanpullincitationsdirectlyfromtheweb,recordweblinks,findDOIs,andsoon.Somehavetheirownwebsearchtoolsbuiltin.Some,suchasBookends(Maconly),willautomaticallyrenamedocumentswithAuthor-Date-Title,ahugehelpwiththeextremelyannoyingproblemofuninformativefilenames.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook9Noneofthesepackagesareperfect.Allhavebothadvantagesanddisadvantages,andthemoresophisticatedoneshavesteeplearningcurves.Lookforonethatcanhandleallmajordocumentformats,includingbooks,journalarticles,newspaperarticles,onlinesources,interviews,andsoon.BewaryofmanagersthatonlyhandlePDFs,sincesomanyotherformatsarestillimportant.Ifyouusethenotesfieldofyourcitationmanagerinadisciplinedway,yournoteswillalwaysbeeasytofind.Whenyourlibrarystartsreachingintothethousandsofitems,thisisagodsend.UseyourunconsciousmindAnawfullotofthinkingandmentalprocessinggoesonwhenyourenotawareofit.Justaswithwritingoranyothercreativethoughtprocess,fullunderstandingofabooktakestimetodevelop.Likethebody,themindsuffersfromfatiguewhendoingjustonethingformanyhours.Yourabilitytocomprehendandretainwhatyoureaddropsoffdramaticallyafteranhourorso.Therefore,youshouldreadabookinseveralshortsessionsofonetotwohoursapiece,ratherthanonelongmarathon.Inbetween,yourunconsciousmindwillprocesssomeofwhatyouveread.Whenyoucomebackforthenextsession,startbyaskingyourselfwhatyourememberfromyourpreviousreading,whatyouthinkofitsofar,andwhatyoustillneedtolearn.Rehearse,andusemultiplemodesReadingisexactlylikemartialarts,baseball,orcookinginthesensethatlearningandmemorydependcruciallyonrehearsal.Soafteryouvereadthebook,rehearsewhatyouvelearned.Quizyourselfonitscontents.Arguewiththeauthor.Imaginehowyouwoulddefendtheauthorspositioninyourownwriting.Reading,writing,speaking,listening,andvisualizingallengagedifferentpartsofthebrain.Forthisreason,thebestformsofrehearsalusemultiplemodesofthinkingandaction.Dontjustcontemplateprivately.Instead,talkaboutthebookwithothers.Bringitupinclasses.Writeaboutit.Visualizeanythingthatcanbevisualizedaboutitscontents.Allofthishelpsfixyourmemoryandintegrateyournewlearningintotherestofyourknowledge.Hanginthere!WhenIgivepresentationsontheseideas,studentsoftentellmeafewweekslaterthattheytrieditafewtimesandjustcouldntdoit,sotheystopped.PaulN.Edwards HowtoReadaBook10Youwillhavetopracticethesetechniquesforaconsiderablelengthoftimeatleastafewmonthsbeforetheycometoseemnatural,andtheywillneverbeeasierthanthecomfortable,passivewayweveallbeenreadingformanyyears.Hanginthere.Therewardsofthesetechniquesaregreat,orsosaythehundredsofstudentswhovetoldmesoyearslater.Learningtoreadlikethiscanbeacriticalkeytoasuccessfulcareerasastudent,scholar,orprofessionalinalmostanyfield.