How to Use E-book Readers and Tablets as Tools for Research

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It is often claimed that superficial and occasional readers are more likely to “succumb” to the lures of e-book reading devices, whereas “serious” readers will always prefer printed books. However, studies conducted among e-book users have steadily shown them to be avid readers, who read books in all formats and for a number of reasons, for leisure as well as for research. When it comes to their grounds for choosing one medium over the other, speedy access and convenience are often mentioned in relation to e-books, whereas printed books seem to be preferred when reading to children.

This seems to suggest that, while they cannot (and, indeed, should not) replace the time you spend in a library, e-book reading devices and tablets can prove to be a useful tool for research. However, it is important to adapt your reading strategy to the purpose you have in mind. Here are 6 easy tips to help you draw up an effective strategy and get the best out of your tablet:

1) Set your goals carefully.

Before you approach a text, it is important to have a clear sense of how you wish to engage with it and what you need to get out of it. If you’re in the preliminary stage of gathering material, you can cover more ground by browsing titles, skimming through the text and making a short list, before deciding which resources might be best suited to your topic. Once you’ve decided on potentially useful materials, you can move on to close reading or reading for comprehension, by the end of which you should be able to summarize the author’s ideas and assess whether they provide a useful frame of reference for your own research.

2) Use active reading strategies.

The main thing that distinguishes leisure from academic or critical reading is the ability of reading deliberately or actively, that is, with a view to identifying and retaining as much key information as possible and filtering it through your own critical faculties. There are various ways in which you can become a more “active” reader, from pre-reading strategies, which will help you define your focus, to highlighting essential information, taking notes, drawing mind maps or annotating passages that you strongly agree or disagree with. While some people feel they work better with pen and paper at this stage, a tablet is a useful tool for keeping all your annotated material in one place, in an easily accessible format.

3) Define your expectations.

One useful pre-reading strategy is to define your expectations before plunging into the text. You can do that by setting out with some questions you hope the book or article will answer and trying to anticipate what the answers may be. Is your initial hypothesis borne out by the conclusions the author reaches? If he takes a different course, do you find yourself swayed by his arguments or not?

4) Approach different types of material differently.

Whether you’re reading for a thesis or to gather information on a specific topic, you might need to approach a wide range of material, from books and academic journals to newspapers or blogs. Tablets gives you access to a generous selection of content, but it’s important to approach each type of material differently. Get well-acquainted with the layout of the respective material and you will be able to zoom in on useful information in no time. If you read articles online, you can easily bookmark them for future use, but make sure you organize your bookmarks efficiently.

5) Use glossaries for technical terms.

In a world where versatility often equals survival, you might be required to go through reams of technical material, which is not exactly within your area of expertise. To make sure you can understand all the information provided, you might want to find or compile a glossary for specialized vocabulary and key terms. Try to rephrase technical definitions in our own words to make sure you would be able to explain the respective concept or process to a lay person.

Find the best reading environment.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to reading. Are you the kind of person who works better in a public library or in your own study? Do you find it easier to concentrate early in the morning or late at night? Discover the place and time of day which work best for you and plan your reading schedule accordingly. The good news is that tablets such as the Samsung Nook will allow you to pursue your research wherever and whenever you feel in top shape.

Looking for the tablet best suited to your needs? The brainchild of Samsung and Barnes & Noble, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook provides access to a wide range of content and lends itself beautifully to entertainment and “serious” reading alike.

Tech Digest Correspondent