Samantha Sharman is one of the student researchers on our project. She is in the second year of a Classical Studies degree at the University of Lincoln. She’s written this blog post reflecting on her experiences of reading at university. Each of the members of the team (https://makingdigitalhistory.co.uk/read/active-online-reading/project-team/) will be doing the same, so thanks to Samantha for going first!
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that my reading practices lack consistency and routine. I’m trying to improve on this, as Classical Studies is a subject which involves a lot of reading, so enhancing my skills is necessary if I want to do well academically. Currently, my reading follows a varied structure, which is very dependent on the task at hand.
When using digital resources to read, there are numerous ways I approach my tasks. For lighter tasks, such as a reading a 10-page article, I like to do an in-depth reading. For me, this involves taking plenty of handwritten notes and spending lots of time understanding the text. If the text has been made available to me on an online platform like Talis Elevate, I extensively use the highlight and comment function – I find that it makes my life a lot easier having my notes in the same place as the text I’m reading. Unfortunately, many of my readings aren’t available to me in this way – nor are many of my tasks short, light tasks.
I struggle significantly when accessing lengthy readings digitally. For these longer texts, I attempt to skim read, trying to pick out key phrases and words. However, even just skim reading 40 pages of online reading is challenging. These tasks often take a while to complete, and as a result I often get headaches and eye strain from looking at a screen for so long. Furthermore, I struggle to make comprehensive notes whilst skim reading, as I always feel my notes gloss over the content. It does help if a longer reading is accessible on a platform that enables the ability to comment and highlight the text, as this helps with my note making problem. However, it still doesn’t help with how physically draining the tasks can be. Sitting down and focusing on a text for an extended period is tiring!
As a result of my challenges with longer digital readings, I often try to find the physical form of the text in the university library. If I can’t find the book in the library, I occasionally print off a copy of the digital version. However, the cost of the printing soon adds up so I do this very rarely, normally only for key assessment resources. I have an easier time reading physical texts, as I like to use sticky notes to highlight key chapters and phrases, and this helps me to retain more information. However, most of my readings are exclusively available online and as a result I’m making conscious effort to improve my reading skills using different study methods.
Currently, I’m using the Pomodoro study method, in which I read for 25 minutes straight and then have a 5-minute break. This has helped so far, as in the 5-minute break I take time away from the screen, reducing the physical effects I’ve experienced. As a result, I have been more successful in reading longer digital resources and taking effective notes for them. Hopefully the positive results will continue for the rest of the year!