A dilemma faced by all students at one point or another throughout their academic years. The need to read something which they have little to no interest in reading, be it a journal article, a novel or a research paper which seems so dry and dead, that you can almost imagine flies starting to swarm over it. I have lost count of the times where I groaned before even flipping the covers of a material, wishing that I could just upload the knowledge into my brain via a pendrive. However, we are not cyborgs and do not have such an ability. Therefore we must do things the old fashioned way – with our own two eyes and brain, and read.
Find an aim, set the mood
The first method to sparking interest within yourself is to have a reason that will motivate you to read it. If you read without aim and are just doing it because you are told to do so, chances are it will feel like nothing more than a chore. The goal can be anything. It can be a deeper understanding of the topic or trying to find inspiration to start an essay or report on a topic. It can be to be able to give out-of-the-box answers during lectures or seminars to win over your lecturers. Heck, even the want to outwit the constant hand raiser in class will do. Anything that drives you to read and understand what the gist of the material is about.
Adding on, to cut down on the feeling of boredom which the supposed text could bring, playing soft music in the background could help counter it. However, do not think that it could be an excuse to blast heavy metal. Your brain could be easily distracted, as well as not be able to focus fully. Also, music without lyrics (such as video game soundtracks) are recommended, as they are shown to improve your focus and motivation. Furthermore, it could help break your brain’s possible association of the reading material with negative emotions, like boredom and frustration, and associate it with an activity you may find enjoyable. That is, playing video games.
Furthermore, another strategy you can employ to tackle the material is to find a part of the text in which you have the most interest and hone in on that. Imagine this scenario: you have to read one of the stories in “The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer, or one of Shakespeare’s plays, but you find yourself dozing off before even finishing the first few lines. You have little interest in them and do not know how to continue. However, you could start by finding a part in the works which draws you in the most, one that can keep you flipping the pages. Start at that point. You probably won’t fully understand it, especially if it is near the middle or the end as much would have happened before the passage. Nevertheless, reading the plays or stories would be easier as you are driven by the want to comprehend what your favourite passage is about, as well as to gain a deeper understanding of it.
Be inspired by others
“But, nothing in it interests me!”. There is a solution for that too! Look for what others are interested in. Go to any search engine and type the name of the work in, see what others have wrote on it, and what they have thought about. You could see the works in a new light, and perhaps come up with your own hypothesis, along with making your assigned or optional reading to be less of a chore. It could instead be something that may be enjoyed, as it is no longer seen as just words that form a dull piece. Be careful to not plagiarise, though, if you are working on an essay based on the readings. It takes a lot of work to come up with creative theories as well as interpretations, and it will be equivalent to stealing someone’s hard work.
Moreover, if you are just unable to finish reading it or if your brain simply refuses to process it, Youtube is your best friend. Typing the name of the book or topic you are to read on into the search bar, you may find videos that hone in on the important parts of the material or a summary of it. A few examples of them are Ted Ed and Crash Course, where a range of topics from both spectrums of humanities and sciences are covered. Both of these are just a small number of what is available on Youtube, and there is certainly one that suits your taste on the platform. Hopefully after watching a video or two on your reading, it could spark your interest in the topic and have you read what is needed voluntarily or at the very least, have a basic understanding of the material.
To sum it all up, no one has a smooth sailing academic journey, be it an undergrad or postgrad, and there are bound to be bumps as well as obstacles along the way. Having to work on something that does not suit your taste is one of them. But we have to do our best to overcome it, to try and conquer it in order to continue down on our path. I hope that this article has helped to smoothen the journey for you. Good luck and happy reading!
Written by Yap Hor Yee