Effective Economics Reading

The idea of ‘effective reading’ is something lost on most students – when asked whether they would find it useful the answer is invariably ‘I know how to read’.

But this doesn’t mean that each of those students will absorb everything at first glance and that they read everything as quickly as they can. What’s more, each of those students will get really annoyed when they’ve read an item on a reading list and they (i) don’t understand it; or (even worse) when (ii) they think that it’s useless and has been a waste of their time.

The average undergraduate reading list is pretty long. Learning how to read effectively can save time and effort. While it does not generate output (understanding of economics) directly, it can help improve your productivity. And as Princeton Professor and Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman puts it:

‘Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything’

Perhaps the most important thing is to know what you want to get out of each reading. This is crucial so that you don’t waste time with poor (or even useless) readings.

Some readings – particularly textbooks – are good for an introduction to a topic. With others, like journal articles, you need to be clear what you want out of them. Some articles will contain a piece of evidence that you will want to cite in support of your argument, while others will contain an important piece of theory that you need to discuss.

By thinking about what you want before you read something, you will avoid wasting time on useless readings.