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How I Write and Learn

In this blog series, “Ask a Coach!” our Writing and Learning Center coaches answer our UNC-CH undergrads’ burning questions! Check out what our coaches have to say about everything from taking breaks to utilizing office hours! 

What can I do to effectively and efficiently read? I have a few classes this semester that are very reading heavy!

Alyssa: I treat assigned readings like any other homework assignment. I block out time in my weekly schedule specifically for reading and do my best to finish the assigned reading before the corresponding lecture. If the professor provides guided reading questions or learning objectives, I reference them as I read so I know what concepts to focus on. STEM textbooks tend to be really dense and contain a lot of new content, so I often reread paragraphs or sections that I find confusing. I also take breaks to process what I’ve read every twenty minutes or so to make sure I don’t lose focus.


Addison: When I’m trying to read effectively and efficiently, I go in with a gameplan. Before I even read the first sentence of an assigned reading, I ask myself, “What am I supposed to get out of this text?” Usually, this question can be answered by the topic of the week; for example, one week’s topic could be “identity,” so I keep this keyword in mind while I am reading. If I’m pressed for time, I will tend to scan the reading rather than read it in-depth, but there is an exception to this rule: any time I see the keyword or anything relating to answering the question, “How does this relate to this week’s topic?” I will highlight it within the text. While this method may not work for everyone, I prefer to read in this way so that I’m not spending too much time on the less important parts of the reading and can easily refer back to the important bits if needed for further comprehension.


Nikki: Oftentimes I have to read a novel per week for English classes, which can be quite lengthy and time consuming. For this, I tend to have the opposite advice as STEM classes; if something is confusing, just keep powering through and oftentimes it will become clearer as I keep going. If I get stuck in the minutia, it will take forever and I may never get to the main point. Additionally, most humanities readings come from works or ideas I can google to get a better grasp. While SparkNotes or googling the historical context of something is certainly not a supplement for reading the real thing, sometimes reading the CliffNotes of Shakespeare before diving in can help me to not get lost in the weeds of old-timey English. Finally, I make sure to space out my reading and do it at times of the day when I am most alert. Reading is an activity many use to purposefully put them to sleep; so, don’t believe that curling up with your textbook in bed at midnight will lead to a fruitful reading session because it will more likely end with a good night’s rest. 


This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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