I’m a computer science student in the second semester. I passed all my first exams fairly well and can follow my lectures quite decent (usually).

But whenever I want to dig deeper into a topic and try doing some studies on my own reading books it’s often hard for me to follow the author’s points and I often lose interest.

So my question is how do you read scientific books/paper?

Is there any pattern you follow and how do you keep yourself motivated and what’s your strategy to get the most of a book for you.


2 Answers 2


At your stage of learning (early), I suggest that you focus on doing exercises based on the texts you read. I assume that most of them are textbooks and hopefully they include many exercises.

In CS, you can write a lot of programs at this stage to solidify your learning.

Another option is to take notes and, especially, make notes on the questions you have that you can get advice on from a professor. I find it useful to use index cards for such notes. Initially write on one side so you can revisit the idea on a card and update it.

But reading is, in itself, too passive for deep learning and building insight. You have to move to some form of active learning. Exercises and sample programs are good for this.

If you are reading books that go beyond texts, one way is to form a small study group. Even two people is enough, three probably better (best?). Read the article and discuss it with your group. Others may understand some points better than yourself and you can help them understand other points perhaps. Again, take notes to capture insights. Ask someone knowledgeable (the professor) for things left unresolved.


I think this may vary a lot from one person to the next, but my preferred method is to first read through the text from cover to cover. When I do this I am not attempting to fully understand the specifics as I go, I am trying to see the big picture and connections between things, as that is the framework that my deep understanding will be anchored to. I can't understand the detail if I can't see the big picture, but there are others that can't see the big pictures if they can't assimilate the detail. Don't force yourself into a method that doesn't suit you. I try to read a textbook or two each month, usually reading a few chapters each lunchtime, so this passive reading stage is not unduly onerous - I find it quite relaxing.

Then I write programs (if it is a programming textbook) or I solve maths problems (if it is a maths textbook) and go into the material where I am interested in more detail.

I don't take notes, and I don't try and remember details. That is what books are for, what I try to remember are the fundamental concepts and methods. Especially for programming, don't try and remember details of APIs!

Buffy's suggestion of a study group is a very good one.

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