Reading and lectures

Getting the most out of lectures

Getting the most out of lectures is about more than effective note-taking. It’s also good to practise active listening and be prepared to review your notes.

Effective reading techniques

Tackle your course reading. Read more strategically, actively and critically.

Making notes from reading

Why and how we make notes. Including lots of examples and tools

Seven ways to make notes

There are many different ways to make notes. Some are better suited to taking notes in lectures and some to making notes from reading. 

Technology for study

Software, apps, extensions and Library tools to help you study more effectively.

More information
Group of laptop users sitting at a table with only hands and devices visible
    Top Tips


    Get an overview of complex topics through accessible sources e.g. video, TV, podcast, simpler book or discussion with friends.

    Read ‘actively’


    • SQ3R method.
    • Read in short bursts (stay focused).
    • Keep checking it makes sense.
    • Be prepared to read texts several times.

    Use technology

    There are tools/apps for:

    • Reading text out loud.
    • Tinting the screen.
    • Changing font, spacing and size.
    • Learning to speed read.
    • Annotating texts.
    • Referencing.

    Take smarter notes

    • Re-format texts as bullet points, mind maps, diagrams or audio notes.
    • Make quotations stand out from your words.
    • Use abbreviations.
    • Make glossaries of new words.
    Screenshot of the Jiffy Reader extension page with text that says 'Read better faster'.

    Jiffy Reader

    'Bionic reading' Chrome extension which makes parts of words bold. This helps guide your eyes and stops you losing your place when reading. 

    Screenshot of showing synonyms of the word 'nice'

    Build your vocabulary with this online tool which gives synonyms, definitions and pronunciations of words. 

    Screenshot of Microsoft's Seeing AI page showing mobile phone pointed at a car and some icons representing what the app does

    Seeing AI

    A free iOS app which helps users with low vision  capture and read aloud text. Find out more about Seeing AI.

    Screenshot of text dictated and transcribed on smartphone being viewed online

    Otter ai

    Record audio on your smartphone or tablet and it will be transcribed. View, listen and edit online. Watch the Otter ai video here.

    Screenshot of Rewordify settings showing choice of display mode, level and highlighting.


    Rewordify is an online tool which simplifies texts and defines difficult words. Watch the Rewordify video here.

    Screenshot showing text pasted in box to be read by Natural Reader Online. Controls displaying choices such as voice, speed, font size etc.

    Natural Reader Online

    A text-to-speech tool with natural-sounding voices. Customise speed, voice and highlighting to suit. You can also upload documents, PDFs and PowerPoints to read out loud. Watch the NRO video here.

    Screenshot of Open Dyslexic font being used on webpage


    OpenDyslexic is a font which some people with dyslexia may find easier to read. Works with Chrome and Safari.

    Screenshot of Visor extension tinting a screen


    Chrome extension which will lets you tint your screen and add a reading ruler. 

    Screenshot of Immersive Reader showing background colour and font options

    Immersive Reader

    Use Immersive Reader in Word, Outlook and OneNote to read text out loud, change the font, spacing and background colour and use a reading ruler. Watch the video to find out more.


    Screenshot of Selection Reader settings window

    Selection Reader

    Selection Reader is a simple Chrome extension which will read aloud any text you highlight in webpages when using the Chrome browser.

    Writing annotated bibliographies

    Useful guidance from the University of Leeds.

    Reading Skills

    Advice and interactive exercises from the University of Sheffield to improve reading skills.


    Free online tool to help you develop your reading speed.

    My Study Bar

    A set of freeware apps to help with reading, writing, planning and organisation. Comes with tutorials and can be run from a flash drive. PC only.

    How to use your reading in your essays

    How to quote, paraphrase and summarise sources. Has real examples of students' writing and information about common errors.

    41 of the best podcasts for curious minds

    Great list of educational podcasts to aid research and broaden knowledge.