Studying requires loads of reading, specially PhD. It requires reading, lot, a lot almost on daily basis for more than four years. Developing the skills of active and fast reading will help enormously. Try the following steps. First read for developing these skills and then apply them in every article you read.
01. Highlight the key words and phrases as you read. may be you can use different colour highlights (colour code the points). This would help you when you return back to the article or text book. Be selective – do not highlight the whole paragraph.
02. Visualise the phrases you are reading. Make story behind it. Whenever you recall it would be played in your brain like a movie clip.
03. Never pass a phrase or a paragraph without understanding. Stop at the moment of confusion. Read again more clearly. Stop and pay attention. Try to understand. Do not move to the next section unless you understand the current section.
04. Read critically. Ask questions and find the answers for them. Know the authors and the targeted audience. Do you fall in to that group of audience? What was the purpose of the article and does it match with your purpose of reading it. You should be asking these questions before you spend much time in reading the material. Do not read something that does not serve your purpose.
05. Ask questions, many of them. See whether you can find the answers in the material. See how many of those questions you could answer soon after asking them (I don’t mean to ask questions knowing the answers). This would tell you the depth you have understood from the text you are reading or how much knowledge the text has added to what you already had.
06. After reading to certain extend, test your self. close your book/ paper and make a rough and quick note. Go back and see how much you remembered and fill in the gaps. Do this after you complete a larger section.
07. Connect the gained knowledge to what you already have (something related). Find out what it is similar to or opposite to.
08. After completion, evaluate what you have read and make a conclusion. Write it in full sentence. Writing makes things embedded in the brain. You can also make a summarised note, which you can glance through later.
09. Explain what you have read and understood to someone else. May be you can explain to your friends or juniors (if you don’t find anyone, talk to your pets about it).
10. Record what you understood in your own words, or record your reading. Listen to it when you are travelling or even while doing the dishes and laundry.
Try these techniques many times with the intension of developing the skill of active reading. Later you will do active reading even without realising. It will become the habit. When something is hard, make it a habit. Good luck with your reading.