by Katya Rivers
So you are in college, you are having the time of your life, and then Sunday comes around and you have a paper due Tuesday. You haven’t even gotten to the point of opening Word and writing your name and the date. And the worst part is that right next to you is a stack of books, journal articles, and essays that you haven’t even looked at. You estimate the pages of dense reading that await you—well over a thousand—on this gloomy Sunday afternoon. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. You aren’t doomed.
Sure it’s doable to read all of that information, but it’s not necessary! That’s right…you do not need to read all the text. You are saved. The important thing to realize in this situation is that there is a way to get through all of that reading material and write one heck of an essay. Let’s get started.
My Perfect Strategy—from a senior who finally figured it out.
- Read the title—Help your mind prepare for what you are about to read and digest.
- Read the introduction and/or summary and the conclusion—Gather the most important points.
- Take notice of boldface headings and subheadings—This helps create a structure in your thought to organize the information you are receiving and absorbing. This will help you deal with the details to come.
- Make sure to take full notice of graphics—Charts, maps, diagrams, pictures, etc. are there to make a point. DO NOT OVERLOOK THEM (take it from someone who’s done it too many times and suffered).
- Notice reading “clues”—Italics, bold face, print, clearly stated objectives.
- Question—Develop your own questions as you read. This is where your thoughts begin to connect to the text in front of you, and you begin to form your own opinion on the topic or issue. This is also where magic happens, and these questions may become the birth of your thesis.
- Always annotate and make notes, highlights, symbols, etc. —This is for future reference when you are actually writing your paper. It will help you find and reference your information and quickly access major points you related to. This is also your way of contributing to the scholarly discussion you’re in college to join.
Remember good writing always starts with good reading. Have fun!
Katya Rivers is a senior majoring in religion.