Studying A Novel: Tips & Tricks

Studying a novel is much different than reading a novel for pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with reading for fun. In fact, it’s really great to do! So many people miss out on the adventure of reading, altogether. But studying a novel can be hard work…

So, why should you even bother to study a novel?

Well, it will do wonders to improve your English. One of the biggest tips I give to students wanting to improve their English is to read, read, and read Girl-reading-book-some more. By reading you learn new vocabulary, even if you’re not aware of it yet. You also learn the proper context of words, you look at a great example of writing, and you get exposed to structured English. Not only that, but reading has actually been proven to improve your memory and your communication skills.

Now that we know reading can improve your English, we need to discuss why you should bother studying a novel. As I mentioned before, studying a novel is completely different than reading a novel. It’s a lot more work, and it can take a long time to actually work through a novel. So why do it?

When you study a novel, you really get to know the inner workings of it. When you really analyse a novel, you better understand why the author wrote it in the first place. Most importantly though, if you’re a student wanting to improve your English, studying a novel will allow you to study grammar, vocabulary, common English use, parts of speech/language and conversations.

1.Study Grammar
There are so many different points of grammar you could focus on-don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by this! Within each chapter focus on three different grammar points you feel you need to work on. By doing this, you go over many different grammar points within a novel, but still get plenty of practice by working on the three points within a chapter.

So, when you’ve picked your three grammar points for a chapter, pick a highlighter colour and circle or highlight every example of this grammar point. For example, if I was working on possessive adjectives, I would highlight his, theirs, hers, its, etc. For a list of grammar points you can work on, click here.

2. Everyday English
By studying a novel, you get to see how people use English everyday. Although the English you’re reading is probably a lot more formal than actual conversations you would hear, it’s still beneficial to look at properly written sentences. You will be able to examine what words are used when, and why they are used.  You will also be exposed to common English expressions, and you’ll have a better understanding of them. So, by reading you will learn the proper, grammatical English.

Look through your page of text, and circle or highlight every time you see a new expression, idiom, or slang word that you don’t recognize. Feel free to circle or highlight any examples that you feel can really benefit your English – this can even include dialogue.

3. Vocabulary
theres-something-so-satisfying-about-the-feel-of-a-print-dictionaryAs I mentioned before, just by reading casually, your vocabulary can improve immensely. Even if you come across a new word and you don’t look it up, you’re still being exposed to it, and you’re still looking at the context of it.

Whenever you come across a word you’re unfamiliar with it, highlight it, look up the word, and write down the ‘basic’ definition of it beside the word somewhere on the page.

4. Parts or Figures of Speech
Again, there are many different parts of speech you could focus on. So don’t get overwhelmed and feel that you’re whole page is going to be highlighted. Once again, focus on three different parts of speech that you would like to improve upon for each chapter.

For example, if I was working on alliteration I would circle or highlight the beginning of each word. If I was working on metaphors, I would highlight the entire figure of speech, and explain why. If you’re looking for a list of figures of speech you could work on, click here.

Here’s an example of what I would personally do if I was studying a novel. Here’s what I’m looking for:

Grammar Points: adverbs of frequency, contractions, words ending in ING (all highlights and notes in blue);
Everyday English: expressions, slang or dialogue (all highlights and notes in yellow);
Vocabulary (all highlights and notes in pink);
Parts of Speech: alliteration, metaphors/similes, and hyperbole (all highlights and notes are in green).


As you can see, I have added notes along the left hand side of the page. If you’re physically writing in your book, this will obviously look a little differently. The important thing is to organize the colours, and organize the note colours. It’s always important to understand why you’re highlighting something – write it down in a note if you think that will help. Remember, this is for your personal benefit. This exercise is used only to improve your English, so it doesn’t need to be a novel study like you would do in an academic course. However you study, make it enjoyable and worthwhile for you!

Other Tips:

  • Underline a phrase, grammatical point or word with a (?) if you don’t understand it.
  • Don’t circle or highlight something just for the sake of it! Think about why you’re highlighting something, and how this will personally improve your English.
  • Be attentive, and re-read the text.
  • Don’t underline the whole text; only highlight or underline absolutely necessary pieces of information.
  • Colour-code your highlighters and pens. For example, a pink highlighter and pink pen will always be used for vocabulary.
  • Pick a book you’ll actually enjoy reading.

Hopefully, if you’re doing a novel study some of these tips will help you out. Have you ever studied any novels? If so, which ones have you studied? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below!


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