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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! 

As a new graduate student, how do I handle the increased amount of reading?

Miranda: In all honestly, it was hard at first. I felt like I had to fully read every article and was spending all of my time doing just that…reading. However, I realized I needed to read for what was being asked of me. Meaning, “what was I reading this specific reading for?” This changed how I approached each reading, whether for a seminar discussion, research paper, or my own research. I also started taking digital notes so that I could use them in other courses or for my own research. Creating balance with readings help alongside planning out each week with what and how much I needed to read. I would also set hard timelines to finish my readings. 

Jacob: The sheer amount of reading was definitely a big adjustment for me when I started graduate school! It wasn’t just the amount of reading that was intimidating…but the content as well. It was not uncommon for me to read a paper for my introductory seminars that really pushed my knowledge and understanding of my field. I quickly realized though that this was by design! I was not expected to master every reading and come to class as an expert on that particular method, fieldsite, or theoretical framework. I then began to approach my readings by asking “what do I want to get out of this reading?” and “why was this paper assigned?” Based on my responses to these prompts, I planned out how much time and mental energy I would put into each reading. No matter how much time and energy I devote to each text, I always made sure I came prepared with one question, one comment, and one concern about each reading. 

Tony:  This was never something I struggled with but I will say that even with that being said, the farther into my graduate studies I got, the more I had to utilize strategic reading strategies in order to keep making contributions to discussions of readings in my seminars. I eventually began to spend more time on the reading for classes that dealt more closely with my main fields of study or those that would potentially inform how I was going to approach my own career. For the other reading assignments, I would read intros and conclusions along with some scholarly book reviews in order to get the basics of the reading and take notes on those, before going back later to finish the reading. This way I was engaging with the material from various vantage points and over a longer period of time. 

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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