Reading at university

Learn about types of readings at university, its challenges and lecturers’ expectations.

Difference between reading at high school and at university

Reading has played an important part in your learning ever since you could read and you are probably a competent reader. However, learning at university requires a different approach to reading.

  • At school, your teachers chose your readings, and your research was based on a limited selection of materials.
  • At university you will engage with a broader range of materials such as electronic databases and academic journals to find information for your assignments and lectures.

You will experience an increase in reading load and complexity of readings. Therefore, while your approach to reading may have worked for you so far, you will probably need to invest some time to improve your reading skills to meet the requirements of your courses.

What students say:

“The reading experience at university is far different from that of high school because it is really more about finding the right information. I really had to learn to skim read when I got to university …”

— Theodore Macdonald, BFA (Hons), 4th year

“At high school, we would occasionally have a small reading to do, maybe three pages, and it was really small. Whereas at uni they are a lot longer and you can get quite lost in them, so you kind of have to stay focused.”

— Olivia Zambuto, BA (Political Sciences)/LLB, 3rd year

“The biggest difference to reading compared to high school is how much time it takes up … you spend almost as much time thinking as you do reading, that you do have to take it slowly and work out your own opinion …”

— Josh Jeffrey, BEd (Teaching), 3rd year

Purpose of reading

Reading plays a central role in your learning and writing. You will be expected to read, analyse and synthesise different sources of information to prepare for lectures, tutorials, tests and assignments.

Most of your reading will assist you in combining your knowledge about course content. You will also be encouraged to read beyond your subject area and keep up to date.

Types of readings you will encounter:

  • Reinforcing your understanding – textbooks, journal articles, websites.
  • Getting an overview – textbooks, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, literature review articles.
  • Researching for assignments – journal articles, books, reports or reviews, research data.
  • Staying current – newspapers, magazines, discussion in blogs and forums, and audio-visual material.
  • Curiosity – books, magazines, blogs.
  • Future scoping – career trend publications, websites.

Lecturers’ expectations

Reading effectively enables you to successfully manage your course reading requirements. Keep in mind different disciplines may have different reading expectations.

Listen to what University of Auckland lecturers say about reading in their subject areas.

Challenges of university reading

Some common challenges identified by students are:

  • Too much to read and not enough time.
  • Too slow getting through the material.
  • Not locating relevant or important information.
  • Not understanding content and vocabulary.
  • Not remembering or recalling.

Developing skills in quick readingnote taking, and in-depth reading will help you tackle these challenges.

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