Skills Hub

Understanding difficult texts

Reading an academic text can be hard. There are a lot of ideas and information and you will usually have to read it more than once to understand it. Here are some helpful techniques:

• The first sentence often tells you what the paragraph is about. To see how the author has developed the idea, read the last sentence of the paragraph.

• If you don't understand a section, take it slowly. Re-read the paragraphs before and after the difficult passage and then read the hard part again.

• Talk to friends on your module about the reading.

• Ask your tutors to discuss the material with you in their office hours.

• See if you can read about the idea in a different source.

• If a phrase keeps appearing, check you understand it. If a book has a glossary, refer to this before you look in a dictionary. Some words have technical meanings that are different to their everyday usage.

• Look at tables, diagrams and graphs in texts.

• If you are having real difficulty, have a break and come back to the text later.

• Identify the reading strategies that work for you. Observe when you read most effectively, and plan your reading so that it fits in with how you work best! 

Student reading in the library

Look at Note-making this will help you with understanding difficult texts, particularly the Guide to reading and noting.

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