Biology - How To "Read Around The Subject"

Consistency, Quality, Relevancy and Time are Some of The Issues Affecting A Level and University Biology Reading Around The Subject.

Whether reading biology at university, studying Biology at A Level or studying at any level, reading around the subject is one of the hardest things to do. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, finding the information. So many sites, so much rubbish and so much irrelevant. Secondly, consistency. Even if we know where to look, keeping up with our intended reading is always more difficult than we thought and seems to be the first thing to slip when commitments pile up! If this sounds familiar keep reading, we will suggest some tips on how to solve these issues and a few more!

Quick warning, we will mention ourselves once or twice! Because our resources collate relevant quality information, consistently in an easy to read format every week this is the issue we are trying to tackle! If you do want to check out our weekly newsletter click here!


Where To Look!

This is one of the most difficult issues to overcome and often causes us to fall at the first hurdle! If you are at university check that your University doesn't have it's own library as this will often be a good place to look. If you are at A Level or any other form of education then keep reading.

A Few Things To Keep In Mind When Searching!
  1. What you are looking for - Syllabus Point/ requirement and key topic words.

  2. Whether you want a journal, article, website or book (or all).

  3. Level of difficulty.

A Few Resources and Sites to Check

Google Scholar

Microsoft Academic

Semantic Scholar

BioSnip Syllabus List


When looking for articles and journals always look for literature with a higher number of citations. This means that the information is accepted in the scientific community and all accurate information. Furthermore, don't access information on websites that do not look official, have an overly high number of adverts or require you to download extensions etc.

When reading literature and information around your subject, don't get stressed! One of the most common issues is that students, especially those that are new to "reading around the subject", get overwhelmed and resultantly give up. A few solutions to this... Don't worry or even try to understand everything. Do your best, try and relate it to information and background knowledge you already have. Reading academic literature is supposed to be a challenge and with time you will subconsciously improve your ability! Secondly, become an active reader. Many people read literature without their full attention. This is going to make it considerably harder! Active reading can be achieved a few ways. Asking questions whilst reading helps to ensure you are challenging the information and so focusing. Underlining, circling and highlighting forces you to interact with the information. Finally, fill out an "article summary form" as you go. This not only helps you stay interacted with the information but can be a great summary sheet for revision or study.

Article Summary Form
Download DOCX • 65KB


Reading around the subject once or twice unfortunately doesn't cut it! Reading around the subject frequently and consistently however can help you build up a log of information in your head as well as improving you speed and information retention which is key!

Finding your method on how to read around the subject is key! Check out these links for our best ways on how to read around the subject at A Level Biology and your University Biological Sciences reading around the subject.

  • Google Calendar - Setup reminders and set time aside with a schedule.

  • BioSnip Newsletter - Weekly Collated Information with Links To More

  • Phone Calendar Reminders - Setup reminders and set time aside with a schedule.

  • Create a routine - E.g. Every Sunday afternoon - "2 - 2.30pm Reading Around The Subject".


Quality and Relevancy

Reading quality information is more important than anything else! Ultimately reading correct and relevant information once is better than reading incorrect poor information every week. Whilst this may sound obvious, due to a lack of enthusiasm and time many people compromise reading whatever articles they can find in a rush rather than taking time to find relevant information.

A few ways around this are

  • Practice

  • Automation

  • Time

Practice is important. Believe it or not reading around the subject is more of a skill than you thought! Not only is understanding academic literature and some of the language a skill itself, but searching is too! Consistency can also solve this as practice takes time. Repeating the process and finding what works is really the only solution.

Automation is a way of letting someone else do the work. There are a few ways to do this. One way is to get together with a group of friends, lets say 4 of you take it in turns to find a few good articles every week and send it to the others. This way you have to do less of the work compared to finding it just for yourself. Another is newsletters, websites or other online methods.

Time could make the difference. This is applicable in a few ways. Taking more time to research and find the best article could be the difference between a rubbish and a beneficial article. Taking more time to read the article itself rather than rush could help you take in more information. Taking the time every week will improve your quality and help you practice.


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