Reading is a neglected skill

A librarian from the University of Bedfordshire recommended a book to me called How to Read Journal Articles in the Social Sciences by Phillip Chong Ho Shon. I think it was probably the first time that a book had made explicit that reading is rarely taught. We all have these courses, blogs and books about how to write, the importance of writing and indeed in a paper I wrote with a colleague Petia Petrova, the best environment to cultivate a writing atmosphere, but what about reading? That is probably the most important bit. Writers block isn’t necessarily an actual thing – often it can be because one hasn’t actually read enough or the right things to have anything to write about.

I also think reading is the thing that makes you able to have something to say verbally. I didn’t know what to expect from a reading group, but yesterday I realised that those who could contribute tended to be able to do so because they had read other works and could make links to these authors, theories etc. I, who couldn’t contribute, wasn’t because I didn’t understand the topic of neo-liberalism as such, but I just had nothing to add because I wouldn’t be able to back anything I said up with literature or experience or examples. and then of course one gets the feeling that one is thick and everyone else is so articulate and clever and well read. Well I can be well read too and contribute something useful, I just need to read more relevant things and read them skillfully and deeply!

Last term, I did feel rather anxious that I hadn’t gotten into a proper reading routine, but having the reading group as well as a new term means that I will now get some sort of reading plan written out. But I don’t really know what a reading plan would look like? A few articles a day plus a book a week? What is achievable and what is the best amount to read? I am sure I read some blog posts on this…

By the way, another useful book on the topic of reading skills is: The Good Study Guide by Andrew Northedge especially chapter 5 (in the second edition) and chapter 2 in the first edition.


© Annika Coughlin 2014

  1. I can relate to how you feel there, Annika. I too read a lot, and sometimes it felt like I should delve into the world of classics, to become a ‘smarter’ reader. No more. I just read the things that I really want to read, or nice surprises that cross my path, and don’t care about comparisons to Hemingway anymore. If a book grabs my attention and doesn’t let it go, that’s all I need to know. How you personally feel about it is, in my humble opinion, the most important thing.


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