Reading logs – the key to remembering what you read

How do I remember important things from what I read about law, politics and commercial awareness?

1.Keep a reading log. Write down what you are reading about and what the source is (eg Book name and author name, or news theme, source and date) and then use TWO colours to divide the information. Pick one colour to write down important key points of information/ideas/themes that you think are interesting or vital to understanding what is going on. Don’t copy and write huge chunks of text – instead try to reword what you’ve read and keep it to a minimum as this will make it easier to remember. With your second colour, write your thoughts on what you have read, whether you agree or disagree, how this relates to other things you have read.

A reading log is a good idea because you can write notes about the bits that have stood out for you in what you are reading. The best way to remember it is to then add your own personal thoughts on it. For example, how does what you have read relate to another piece of law, or another book you’ve read? What are your opinions on the subject from a wider perspective and how has what you have read influenced that? This not only helps you to remember important information but it also teaches you the vital skill of critical thinking. I’m currently using a gorgeous Ratio notebook from Rama Publishing which I love, in which I write the date I started and finished the book, key themes and ideas I’ve taken from the book in one colour, and then my own thoughts in another colour.

It’s also handy to note down references – just simple ones, for your own use – in case you should ever want to refer back to that piece again. Normally I write the literature title and author at the top of the page and then just put the page numbers next to any key ideas.

Writing your own thoughts and critical opinions in a different colour also helps you to refer back if you want to link some old thoughts you had with new ones. I find this a really useful way to write a visually appealing and practical reading log that aids me in the long term. I also think relating what you have read to new issues or debates is the best way to remember things because you’re more likely to be able talk about things that you can bring into something relevant.

For example, in one of my classes this year I kept a reading log for a class where we had been discussing legal issues surrounding terrorism which overlapped with another class I was studying on how religion and race is portrayed in the media and what the regulations surrounding this are. Because I’d kept a thorough and organised log I was able to quickly find the information I needed and draw links between both classes. This also helped knock an essay I did up to a first – you get more marks for showing you have used critical thinking and extensive wider reading and contrasting and comparing this information. My reading log helped me do that and made it a lot easier to do.

I remember at first year of uni I just write random notes with no references on separate pieces of paper and I always lost them and struggled to find the reference to evidence my point when I brought it up in class – so regardless of whether you are a first year, final year, or graduate, a log is definitely the way forward.

2.Read summaries and book reviews if you’re struggling to find the time to read large pieces of information. If you are able to summarise and skim read things yourself, that is also a very useful skill that you will need to practice as a lawyer, but for now there are plenty of summaries and reviews on the internet for you to make getting extra reading done a little easier.

My top sources for news summaries is the LinkedIn Daily Rundown and you can find plenty of book reviews on academic sites such as JStor.

3.Find things to read about that you are interested in! During our uni days and careers we do have to read some less than interesting pieces, but if you can find topics you are genuinely interested in you are more likely to remember it! Try starting a book club or debating group to discuss different ideas and issues as for many people hearing other people’s views helps them to remember and make sense of what they have read.

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