This assistance is about:

Reading unfamiliar academic text

Academic writing is a style of its own, neutral, unemotional and often with much specialised "shorthand" language. It's important not to let the complexity of the language overpower the reading of what may, in fact, be quite straight forward points.

An early strategy for dealing with new vocabulary is to acquire a specialist dictionary. It's amazing how much subject learning can be done simply by looking up words in such (not a general) dictionary. Looking up words can be done as part of the process of reading a textbook or writing an essay; however, it is just as well to do this looking up as an extra learning activity.

It follows from this that a notebook or some soft of computer file reference is useful for complex words, and indeed can be added to for their developed meanings as they are used more and more. The word can first be entered when encountered, looked up and defined, and then added to with later use. Literary Machine on a home computer is excellent for explaining keywords.

To crack specialist words:

Breaking into complex paragraphs and texts, particularly within academic books or long articles, does need a search strategy. It needs relational searches. This means look into the index for the words in paragraphs that are providing a block. Then check out other uses within the book. Check out diagrams that might explain better. Do refer to lecture notes and handouts which may explain as they are there to teach. Read around the text ignoring the difficult parts as what they mean may come be explained by associated nearby material or, better still, concluding comments further up the text. Try writing down some key questions or key words that seem relevant and let them guide the reading. Try and make an argument that parallels or opposes what perhaps is being said. It may provide insight. Or come back later with a freshened mind.

Tough reading is made easier by:

Stagg, G. (1995), Reading and Notetaking from Written Sources, Leicester: De Montford University Library, Student Learning Development Centre.

Marshall, L., Rowland, F. (1998), A Guide to Learning Independently, 3rd edition, Buckingham: Open University Press, 123-147