Dr. Judith M. Newman



Read Fast

based on Peter Elbow's Writing Fast technique
[Elbow, Peter 1973 Writing Without Teachers Oxford University Press]

An important strategy to develop is reading fast—an adaptation of Peter Elbow's freewriting. In his description of freewriting, Elbow talks about writing something four times quickly, not just once slowly, to let an idea evolve. I have found the strategy works equally well for reaading—particularly for material I have difficulty understanding.

Let me explain it (this comes directly from interwoven Conversations, 1991)

Take the time you have available, divide by four. Skim everything quickly, marking whatever catches your attention with a highlighting pen. then jot down your impressions,, or any questions you have. Read again, with your highlighter, react briefly once more—confirming previous impressions, changing your interpretation, whatever. Read a third time, this time attend to what you've highlighted. Now write your reactions to some of the highlighted portions. Finally, quickly read a last time from the beginning to end and sum up your reactions. You might actually find the fourth reading isn't necessary.

The point is to help readers avoid becoming bogged down in terminology or caught up in difficult explanations until they have th edrift of the argument as a whole.

Mark any words / phrases you might want to deal with later, but keep on reading; the information you need isn't where you're having difficulty, it's somewhere later in the text. The more difficult the passage, the faster you should read. Experiment and see what happens (pg. 62).

The majority of people, I find, have difficulty making time for reading a large quantity of material. To compensate, they read slowly and carefully, thinking this will somehow allow them to make sense—WRONG! Reading slowly and carefully will prevent you from covering ground quickly. What 'reading fast' does, is permit you to get through a lot of material in a short period of time and to see connections because you're taking in a lot of information at once.