For any writer who needs to do research, time is money. We get paid for the work we churn out, not all the background bits. This means we have to budget our research time carefully, lest we fall into a research rabbit hole. If you are the kind of person who gets lost while on the bunny trail, you might give speed reading a try.
Although speed reading sounds like something you might hear about in a 2 a.m. infomercial when you can’t sleep, it’s actually shockingly useful in the long run.
Speed reading involves taking the time to focus on the important stuff, while avoiding wasting time reading the content you don’t need. Done right, speed reading improves both speed and comprehension. Pick up these simple tips, and you’ll find your research hops along at a faster pace.
Prioritize Your Reading Goals
School did a pretty poor job teaching you how to prioritize once you were on your own. In your classes, you were probably taught to treat every work as if it were equally important to all the others. This makes for a terrible work strategy.
If you don’t learn how to prioritize what you need from a certain work, you’ll find yourself wasting a ton of time reading everything. Before you fall into yet another research rabbit hole, ask yourself what you hope to get from the piece you’re about to read. Be as specific as you can, making a checklist if necessary. If all you need is a quote from an expert or a quick statistic, don’t hesitate to Ctrl-F your way to victory.
Some internet authors (and yes, even some academic writers) drone on and on without any direction. Luckily, if you know where to look, you can usually find the point of the piece quickly.
Harvard’s Bureau of Study Counsel suggests you may have to search for the thesis in more than one place. Don’t assume the lede or introduction will present the argument quickly; the attention-grabber might be only tangentially related to the argument. In many blog posts, journalistic articles or academic work, the introduction can last several paragraphs. When you’re in a rush, just hop to the last paragraph or two of the introduction.
Skip the Fluff
No one ever writes fluff, right? Wrong. When you read through a piece, you don’t need to mire yourself in example after example of the same point. Who has time to spend reading about the fluffy brown bunny, after you’ve already read about the fluffy white one and the fluffy black one?
Instead, just read these components carefully:
- topic sentence of each paragraph
- any statistics relevant to your research
After this point, you should have a firm grasp of the author’s argument, and you can spend more time in specific sections as needed. Once you have made sure you understand the purpose of a section, give yourself the time to read just one or two examples. The New Yorker reports that perhaps only 20 percent of your time spent reading contributes to understanding. The other 80 percent just makes you tired. If reading that 20 percent is enough for you, feel free to move on.
Read It Twice
Wait one eye-straining minute! You mean we have to read something twice as part of our goal to comprehend faster? Yes, yes, absolutely yes. You don’t have to read everything twice, just the stuff you need to know from the piece.
Many people who skim through written works will need to go over the main points again to make sure they’ve got it. The folks at Dartmouth’s Academic Skills Center say you should invest the time to reread the most helpful bits, like the introduction, conclusion and details relevant to your research. Statistics are particularly important to confirm with a second reading. That way, you don’t make the gross violation of failing to listen to the research.
There are lots of ways to learn how to read faster, but the ones that lead you to better comprehension in less time are the ones to follow. Prioritize your needs from the piece, identify the main arguments, get a quick understanding and then reread the bits you really need.
Do you have a way to keep yourself from falling into research rabbit holes? Share it here.
This article was written by one of our writers. The author’s views are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of WritersDomain.