Deciding on a reading strategy - Being a purposeful reader and note-taker

Success in Academic Writing - Trevor Day 2018

Deciding on a reading strategy
Being a purposeful reader and note-taker

Murray’s (2008) paper entitled Writer’s Retreat: Reshaping Academic Writing Practices promotes the use of writing retreats by staff to improve their confidence and productivity in academic writing. The article is available at 4 1&pID=9.2. Download the article to undertake the following activity.


Writing retreats

Choose one of the following purposes in reading Murray’s (2008) article:

(a)I am reading it to decide whether it is worthwhile organising a mini writing retreat for some of my fellow students, to help us with writing our final-year dissertations.

(b)I am reading it to weigh up the benefits and challenges of organising a writing retreat.

(c)I am reading it to find out how to run a writing retreat, so that I can organise one. Now, skim the

article with your chosen purpose in mind. To what extent would this article meet your purpose?

Check your answers at the end of the chapter.

Depending on your purpose you would read the article in different ways. In fact, you might read it one way (to find out whether it is worthwhile organising a writing retreat) and then another way (to gather information to help organise a retreat). During your degree programme you may find that there are certain key papers or textbook chapters that you will want to read more than once, in different ways and with different purposes in mind.

You don’t have to read everything!

It is my belief that some lecturers - having come through a university education in which they were encouraged to read numerous books from cover to cover - now expect this of their own students. A degree programme in literature, the classics or a modern language may require the detailed reading of dozens of books from cover to cover. However, in most degree programmes there are just a few key texts that you are encouraged to purchase, read and reread. When I write a peer-reviewed journal paper, or write a book such as this one, I draw upon my reading of hundreds of books and articles. But it does not mean that I have read every single word in all those books or articles. In some cases I have, but in other cases I will have read them selectively, to meet a particular purpose. I know that most of my colleagues do this too. Even if you are reading a core text, I encourage you to be thoughtful and selective about how you read it.