Reading Skills/Activities/Types of reading material

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There are several types of reading material that you will encounter while completing your academic studies. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Textbooks
  • Journal articles

There are other types of reading material that you may also encounter such as newspapers, government documents, encyclopaedias and information from the Internet. Some of these have been described in Digital information literacy and will not be explored any further in this activity.



Textbooks are often big, heavy and expensive books that you are asked to purchase at the beginning of the year. They tend to be written on one particular subject matter and often contain many sections and chapters. Many textbooks are written or edited by a number of different people - usually experts in a particular subject matter.

They usually contain a lot of information that has been collected over a number of years. Therefore some of the information in textbooks is often not the most up-to-date - recall from the Information Skills course the characteristic of timeliness!

How to read a textbook?

Textbooks will often be recommended to you for a specific course and may be referred to by a lecturer in class or tutorial. Depending on the course, the textbook may provide you with information that you will be assessed on therefore it is important that you use (read) them!

Many of the strategies described in this unit can be used when reading a textbook. Click here for some strategies for reading textbooks.


Journals were described in Information Skills as a type of information source commonly used in tertiary education. Scholarly journals may contain a variety of articles such as original research reports, literature reviews, book reviews and case studies.

Many of the journal articles you will come across in the health area will describe the results of a research project or study. There may be some variations to the way the article is organised but generally an article will include the following:

  • An introduction to the topic
  • An explanation of how the research project or study was completed
  • A presentation of what was found, and
  • A discussion of the findings

How to read a journal article?

It is important to read through the entire article but often reading the abstract first can help you figure out if the article is in fact going to help you find the information you are searching for. (An abstract is a summary of a journal article - it is like scanning the article!)

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