Reading, Retention and Research: Improving These Scholarly Skills
By Dr. Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University
Strong reading skills help every student to be successful. The average undergraduate should expect to read at least 75 pages per week, per class. This quantity equates to at least 24,000 pages of academic reading (600 pages multiplied by 40 three-credit classes, for example) to attain a degree.
Those 24,000 pages of reading are equivalent to 6 million words for an undergraduate degree. If the average person reads at 200 words per minute, that person will invest 30,000 minutes or 500 hours in academic reading.
Given this huge investment of time for academic reading, consider how important it is to improve your reading skills and retention. Learning some speed-reading techniques or taking a speed-reading course hones your reading skills and increases your retention. Even a 10% increase in reading speed saves you 50 hours of reading while you earn an undergraduate degree.
Many Information Sources Available, But Are They Accurate?
Although becoming a faster reader is useful, you also need to understand the importance of evaluating different online sources.
These days, you can do a quick web search using Google or other search engines. You can find information about every possible topic.
However, a web search also brings up popular search results or results that follow different web protocols. Just because an article shows up first in a web search does not mean the information contained in it is accurate or up to date.
To maximize the time you spend reading for scholarly purposes, you must be able to find the best information by carefully evaluating it. That will prevent you from wasting time reading a website article, only to find out that the information in it was not particularly applicable or academic.
Use the Right Criteria for Reading and Judging an Online Article
The first criterion to consider as you evaluate an online article is the source. If no one takes credit for the article, you should be suspicious of that information.
On the other hand, if the online article is written by a known expert, that makes its information more credible. For example, a white paper written by scientist Stephen Hawking is more credible than one written by model and actress Kim Kardashian. Although she has more social media followers and her article is more likely to appear at the top of a web search, that is no guarantee that she is an authority on all topics.
The second criterion to consider is an online article’s topic and the potential bias of the author. Reading a study about smoking that has been funded by a cigarette company might not offer an unbiased view of a topic. For example, studies on climate change funded by oil companies might slant the article to make it appear to the reader that fossil fuels have no impact on the environment.
The third criterion to consider is whether or not the article has been reviewed and evaluated by other experts in that field. When experts review an article, this kind of material is called refereed or peer-reviewed.
Peer-reviewed material is the gold standard of research because the material has been independently reviewed and scrutinized by other experts. The Harvard Business Review is a good example of a top-tier peer-reviewed magazine.
Also, you should learn to quickly identify academic sources and read those sources first, rather than reading every article that might be related to a topic. This practice will save you additional time that you would normally spend doing research.
Accomplishing these goals isn’t easy. But with practice, you’ll improve your reading speed and retention. You’ll also be better able to find and read information that supports your academic research. Ultimately, if you hone these skills, you will save time and be more academically successful in the long term.
About the Author
Dr. Robert Gordon has 25 years of professional experience in supply chain and human resources. Robert has earned a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership, an MBA and a B.A. in History. He has authored over 100 published articles, including five books covering a variety of business topics.