Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Monday, May 25, 2009

so much reading, so little time

I'm asking for your advice today. I have two accelerated summer school classes (six weeks) and they both require tons of reading.

My shortcoming? I am not a fast reader.

Anyone else out there with this dilemma? If so, how did you conquer this? Is there a way to get the most out of a chapter without reading every last word, or is that my only way? It's not that I don't want to, it's that I don't have time.

I have, for example, almost half of a very thick book to finish by this Saturday. And that is just one of the books in one of the classes.

All and any advice is deeply appreciated.

--Ms. T. J.


  1. I am in the same predicament. I read at a normal pace, I guess, but my writing is slooooow. I can't spit out quality writing over night, like some of my classmates. I am very nervous about assignments I have coming up: 3 serious papers, each due one week apart. eeeeeeeeeeep!

  2. With writing papers, I find that it really helps if I follow the professor's assignment. For example, I try to write exactly what is asked for, and maybe add a little more, for good measure. I find it is much more manageable this way.

  3. i remember my instructor in Social Psychology, she would tell us to read 7 chapters ahead. She will only discuss the chapters having giving us a test. I was not a fast reader, but somehow I managed. I don't read word for word, I just kind of browse through each paragraph. Catching the important details. That's all.

  4. Here's some excellent advice for you:

    How to Read Like a Scholar

    Good luck!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. An excerpt from Lynn O'Connor:

    Here’s how you do it:
    1.Skim the book. Examine the table of contents to get a feeling for the structure and main points of the book. Flip through the chapters, skimming the first few paragraphs of each, and then the section headings. Check the index for any topics you feel are especially important. Then, if you have time;
    2.Read the Introduction and conclusion. Most of the author’s theoretical position will be laid out in the introduction, along with at least a summary of the chapters and sections within. The conclusion revisits much of these points, and usually gives a good overview of the data or other evidence. Sometimes the conclusion is not marked as such; in this case, read the last chapter. Then, if you have time;
    3.Dip in. Read the chapters that seem most relevant or interesting. Get a sense for what the author is trying to accomplish. Flip through the rest of the book and look more closely at anything that catches your eye. Then, if you have time;
    4.Finish the book. Read the whole thing. If you know you’ll have time, skip 1 - 3 and just read, cover to cover.

    Thanks, Karen~
    Ms. T. J.

  7. Sorry, TJ, I'm having technical problems with the blog these days (error messages in the comments link), so I thought I would respond via email.

    My step-mother-in-law, was in an earlier life, a reporter. Her advice to me when suffering from the same fate was that when books are written (and journal articles), it's all about the number of words. So the basic structure is the first sentence in any paragraph is the most important, and the others back it up. The same holds true for the first/second paragraph in a chapter or section of a chapter. So her advice was to read the entire first paragraph of each section, the entire first sentence in each subsequent paragraph, and then just skim the rest and I wouldn't miss anything terribly important. This has helped me focus my reading and cut hours off the time spent doing just that.

    Good Luck.

    (I am posting this for my blog friend Carolyn. It's so helpful, I wanted to share it.)

  8. I am a perfectionist and have always prided myself on getting every bit of every assignment done.  Then I hit grad school.  No way!  I had to give up reading every word.  I had to give up doing optional readings.  I had to give up reading every article assigned.
    Here's what I do:
    Figure out from the prof if possible what readings they really want you to read.  For my summer school class (5 saturdays from 9-6!) its the case studies first which she expects us to intelligently discuss, followed by articles and then the text and lastly the optional text.  So I read the case studies thoroughly.  I then read the articles discriminantly -- I sometimes skip the methods and the massive number-ridden results and go to the conclusions.  Then the text if possible.  I'll read the optional text when I have time to do reading once I have a job in social work to improve my skills further. :)