Reading to Write Effectively: Why you need a reading strategy before writing anything
Given all of the reading and writing that we are expected to accomplish as college/university students, it’s important to be as efficient as possible when committing our time to these responsibilities. Three of the most important suggestions for approaching reading and, therefore, writing, efficiently are as follows:
Read with a pen in hand; don’t expect yourself to remember key concepts/ideas
Most of us can’t remember everything that we’ve read and then call it to memory when we’re writing. Therefore, reading with a pen in hand prepares you to circle/underline key concepts/ideas in the text you’re reading. This creates a way of “tracing” key concepts/ideas throughout the text so that when it’s time to recall what you’ve read and use it to guide your writing, it will be much easier to condense the entire text into a unique, organized, written response. If you don’t want to write in the text that you’re reading, open a blank Word document for keeping track of key concepts/ideas (and page numbers).
Write while reading because it’s an informal way of “conversing with” the author of the text (i.e. learning about how your writing can contribute something useful to “the conversation” of your resources)
In addition to circling/underlining key concepts/ideas throughout your reading process, it may also be helpful to keep a list of questions, connections with other texts/assignments/disciplines, etc. because this list can easily translate into “official” writing. For instance, even if your teacher isn’t requiring a written assignment in response to the reading assignment, if you keep a working document with questions, connections, etc. regarding the reading assignment, you will likely be much better prepared to discuss the reading, not to mention that your notations can easily serve in the short-term as a Twitter/Facebook post (which is helpful for providing others’ responses to your ideas) or in the long-term as an idea for a final paper. For most of us, it’s much easier to have somewhere to start when, eventually, we need to complete a writing assignment based on the reading assignments of the course.
Develop research questions/research key words while reading; most of the time, it’s fairly easy to identify research key words/ create unique research questions while reading actively
The notations you keep in the texts you’re reading can help to prevent the frustration of figuring out “what to write about” when it comes time to interpret the reading assignments into unique written work. They give you something to start with – either in the sense that you can extend the ideas you have already written down, or challenge them by researching what’s missing … either way, you have something to work with, which helps to alleviate some of the anxiety of staring at a blank page.