Two important skills to master while studying at university are effective reading and critical thinking.

With so much to read at university, it can be an overwhelming and time-consuming task. You’ve got required course readings, recommended course readings, lecture notes, tutorial notes—and then there’s all the research you’ve collected in preparation for assignments.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to read faster, when what you really need to do is read smarter.

The first step to smarter reading is understanding how to read the content, because we read different types of texts in different ways. The way you read something will depend on what you’re reading, why you’re reading it and how it’s set out. Once you understand these elements then you’ll be able to tell whether you should skim through, read a key section or read the entire thing—this can save you a lot of time. The SQ3R process is a great tool to help you read effectively:

  1. Skim. Skim quickly through the text to get an overall impression. Look at the abstract, conclusions and the format of the paper.
  2. Question. Ask questions of the text: Who? What? Where? When? How?
  3. Read. Read the text in a focused and fairly speedy way.
  4. Remember. Test your memory. How has it answered your questions?
  5. Review. Read the text in more detail, taking notes. Use your own words.

In addition to reading effectively, you will also need to think critically when reading, note taking, working on assignments, preparing for exams, organising your time and attending or watching lectures and tutorials. Critical thinking is thoughtfully reasoned consideration—examining your own ideas and those of others, assessing and synthesising these different ideas and applying ideas in different contexts.

Critical thinking involves seven steps:

  1. Analyse and interpret the question
  2. Immerse yourself in the topic
  3. Ask questions
  4. Make links
  5. Understand the different perspectives
  6. Understand the theoretical frameworks
  7. Develop a position and arguments to support it.


Check out the Library’s Study skills page for more information and tips to help you ace your university studies!