What! PhD students can’t read? I was shocked to find how many of my online PhD students couldn’t deal with the reading load in my capstone course. They’d been through years of school. How did they get here?

In our information-rich world, processing print or on-screen material is essential to our productivity, success and, yes, pleasure. Developing good reading skills are essential. I’m not a reading specialist but, over the years, this six-stop procedure helped my students and works well for most people. Give it a try with material you really need to understand.

1. Scan—What is this material all about? What stands out? Is this material worth my time?

2. Read the material or listen to tapes—read for content, but push yourself to move rapidly.

3. Read again, but this time, highlight the most important points and paragraphs. Make notes in the margins.

4. Read the sections you highlighted, forming a pattern of linkages in your mind.

5. Scan again—How does it all feel? What is the essence of the material?

6. Explain the material to someone else.

We’re inundated with information every day. Developing the ability to pick, choose and process is a critical skill.