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CEE 700 Research Methods (James): Reading and Annotating

Resources for students in CEE 700

Reading for Better and More Efficient Understanding

Most of us read many things during a typical day: street signs, nutrition labels, text messages, emails, books, technical articles, etc.  We likely use different strategies to get the information we need from the different formats.  The human mind is capable of efficiently skimming materials and skipping unneeded information, however, it is also capable of missing information when we are in a hurry or haven’t developed reading habits appropriate for our needs. 

When reading technical information, it can be helpful to adopt different strategies than we use to read emails or text messages.  We may need to read the paper more than once, and take notes for future reference.  Below are some techniques for getting the most information value out of the time you spend reading technical materials.  Try them, see what works, and develop a technique and workflow that works best for you. 

Do You Learn More When Reading Print or Digital Materials?

The reading experience is quite different when different media are used.  Computer screens, other digital screens that mimic paper and ink, and paper format each have different benefits and limits.  As you determine your personal workflow and techniques for reading and annotating materials for your research, compare the different formats and tools available to you.  

Reading, Annotating, and Paraphrasing

One key tip about annotating is to carefully track what are your words, and what are direct quotations from the original paper or report.  Use quotation marks in your notes if you are transcribing the exact words, and use some other notation if you are not quite using your own words and will need to work some more on praraphrasing the ideas.  Some publication styles will require a page number for any quoted materials - so it can be useful to always mark this in your notes.  While each discipline tends to use one or two citation styles, you may choose to publish elsewhere, or with a conference that uses a different style that requires page numbers for quotations.

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