• Briana Green

How To Read with Purpose

If you are anything like me, at this point in the semester, you’ve almost memorized your course syllabi, you’ve locked in your semester due dates, AND you are brainstorming some sort of research proposal that’s due for at least one of your courses. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed? 

Yeah, I am too. 

But before we get too flustered, I wanted to offer 5 tips for how to read towards your research interests with purpose this semester. 

Tip #1: Curate a reading list. 

For some of us, knowing what to read in regards to our research interest is a huge obstacle. 

Tip number one is to curate a reading list related to questions you want to answer, or population or context you want to study. 

Take the time to search online databases for books and articles, in addition to the physical copies of books.. Browse the curriculum vitae (CV) of prominent scholars in your field for articles. Flip to the end of articles or book chapters to skim the references for other reading that seem relevant. Ask professors or colleagues for recommended readings as well. Think about what the keywords or even “controlled vocabulary” you’d use to search for it.

Curating a reading list is a way to streamline the time spent looking for information that could support your research interests or research questions later.  

Tip #2: Protect your reading time. 

Now, that you have a reading list, it is equally important that you are protecting your reading time. What does that mean? 

First let me say, many of us know too well how easy it is to become distracted from reading due to factors such as social media, noisy environments or having a talkative study buddy. 

Tip number two is about picking the time, place, day, and time management techniques that accommodate your lifestyle and allow you to be an intentional and focused reader. 

For some, this may be blocking off time in the morning while your children are at school or going to a coffee shop and turning your phone off. For some, this means incorporating time management strategies such as the Pomodoro method or scheduling specific readings for certain days.

Protecting your reading time is about setting boundaries that help you to optimize the time you have dedicated to reading. 

Tip #3: Create reading primers or do annotations as you read. 

A personal struggle of mine when it comes to reading, has been figuring out how to summarize my readings and how to best document the information for later use.

Tip number 3 is about note taking as you read in the form of reading primers or annotations. 

A reading primer is a set of questions or categories used to guide your reading. For example, sections of your primer could include: key definitions, key themes, questions that arose while reading, connections to other literature, how is this advancing my work. These prompts help you to break up your reading. 

Another variation of reading primers are annotations. Annotations are also notes or explanation you’ve written about the text.  This semester one of my classes requires that we annotate our class and personal readings in about 6 sentences: 3-4 sentences identifying the main arguments and 2-3 sentences with general reactions.

Personally I think it’s a great way to be organized and show evolution of learning. In addition to being a great way to summarize, primers and annotations are also ways document what you’re reading and refer back to for future writing, teaching, class discussion points, but most importantly as evidence of how we shape our research perspectives. 

Tip #4: Share what you're reading. 

At this point, if you are following these tips to the T, you are reading from your reading list during optimal times and creating detailed notes of your readings! 

Tip number four, recommends you share what you are reading, as a way to begin forming memories about these readings and deepen your understanding of your own research interests. 

When we share what we are reading, we invite people to ask questions and process with us. Sharing is an opportunity shed light on your work through new perspectives and to challenge your thinking about how you want to contribute to your field. 

In reality, the reason many doctoral classes are centered around critical conversations and discourse is because sharing what we think about our reading helps us clarify and refine our perspectives and how we want to contribute to our fields. 

Tip #5: Do what feels right. 

The last tip may contradict all the rest for some of you — but I think it's super important. 

Tip number 5, do what feels right when it comes to reading. 

With all the reading you will do in grad school, the last thing you want to do is read things that you hate AND hate your process for reading. 

Have the discernment to know which topics aren’t really your interest. Take time to figure out a note taking strategy or how to manage your readings (Check out my last post Old Gems, New Season to learn more about citation managers). 

Do what feels right may mean implementing a pacing guide for your reading list or breaking up your course readings with the people in your cohort.. or even skimming the readings.

My main message here is:

Do what feels right when it comes to reading towards your research interest.. but make it meaningful. 

Now, I am curious how you manage reading in grad school?  I would love to hear them and share them with others. 

Comment below or on follow me on Twitter & IG (@_inherlane) to keep the conversation going.

I hope these tips are helpful to you this semester. You got this!

With love,


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