ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Productive reading
Why spend time and effort reading a particular text?
Distinguishing between support and ‘front-line’ literature
How can you identify fit-for-purpose support texts to read in full or selectively?
Advance check: suitable support literature for your identified reading purpose
How can you identify fit-for-purpose front-line texts to read in summary or in depth?
Advance check: suitable front-line literature for your identified reading purpose
Scrutinising the efficiency of your academic reading habits
How efficient are you as a reader in your academic studies?
Reading strategies: scanning, skimming and intensive reading
Taking risks with your reading time and effort
Making the most of your reading time and effort: towards an effective compromise
Scanning a short text for specific information
Skimming long texts
Writing effectively
Arguing convincingly
Mapping your field
Literature reviewing
Reviewing the literature systematically
Developing proposals
Advance check: suitable front-line literature for your identified reading purpose 


There will probably be a large amount of front-line literature with at least some relevance to your reading purpose. But unless you have been given guidance on exactly what you should read, you will have to work out for yourself which texts are likely to be most useful. Every text you read takes precious time. So it is advisable to do more than just pick a text that looks vaguely relevant from the keywords in the title. Consider also which type or types of literature stand to help you the most, although each type will inevitably have limitations. Then look for texts that are directly relevant and are of the types you need to achieve your reading purpose.

A useful exercise is to check in advance what you want to learn from reading front-line literature, what each type of text can offer you, and how different types may compensate for each other’s limitations.

Here is a short checklist.

Before you start reading, ask yourself about which type or types of front-line text you should prioritise for your reading purpose.

1.         What is my reading purpose?

 

 

 

2.         What do I need to find out about in depth to achieve this purpose?

(e.g. about theories and critiques of them? how far theories are backed by empirical evidence from research and practice? research approaches used to investigate an area of enquiry and their strengths and weaknesses? lessons from practice and the assumptions and values underpinning them? the content of policies and the extent of empirical justification for them?)

 

 

 

3.         Which types of front-line text are likely to be most useful for my in depth reading, and why?

(e.g. is one type all that’s needed? could two or more types make complementary contributions to what you need to learn about in depth?)

 

 

 

4.         How might the limitations of each type of front-line text I use affect what I learn?

(e.g. how far should claims be accepted that are made in practical texts but with little empirical support? how far should any theory be viewed as applicable to practice without supporting evidence?)

 

 

 

5.         How could using more than one type of text together compensate for the limitations of each type?

(e.g. could practice plus research texts provide a stronger evidence base for claims about what works than either type alone? could a theoretical texts plus research texts provide a more convincing basis for accepting claims about the application of the theories to practice than either type alone?)

 

 

 

You can use the results of completing the form to inform your decision about which types of front-line text you will try to include in the range you read in depth to achieve your reading purpose.

To download and use this document – click  here