Active Reading Strategies
This guide is intended to help you strategize and actively engage for assigned readings in a class such as textbook chapters, articles, novels, etc. Each section has suggested tips on how to get started, what to look out for while reading, and what you should do after reading. There are also additional resources to check out for further assistance.
- Is it quiet enough for you? Is there good lighting?
- Have you limited distractions? (i.e turning off your phone)
- Do you have the things you need?
- Are you giving yourself enough time to complete it?
- Break up the reading into smaller sections
- For example, if you’re reading a chapter from a textbook, there will be subheadings and you may want to focus on those 3-5 subsections instead of thinking about how you need to complete the whole chapter.
- Manage your time by scheduling breaks
- When reading each section, ask yourself if you understand what it’s conveying. If you can’t answer that, it probably means you need to go back and reread.
- Ask yourself the following questions while you skin:
- What’s the topic?
- What can you learn from the assigned readings?
- What do you already know?
- How are the objectives in your class related to the reading? You can also look through your course syllabus and see if the other readings have a recurring theme to them.
- Read the titles and subtitles carefully as you may draw clues on what it is about based on keywords; read summaries at end of a chapter (if any)
- For example, if they’re using versus that means they’re comparing and presenting both arguments; if you see results or effects, the author is drawing important conclusions.
In this section, we offer some effective strategies to utilize while you’re reading and annotating to help you understand the material. While you’re reading, it is worth noting how fast or slow you may read (and where your reading speed slows down or speeds up), what questions to ask, what words to look at for, and how to annotate a text effectively.
Annotate the Text
- Look out for definitions and important terms/phrases
- How you take notes depends on your style (bullet points, visual diagrams, mind mapping, or whatever works for you!)
- It may be helpful to turn the subtitles into questions, so you are able to answer and understand
- Summarize what you read in one sentence for each section
- You can also highlight, but be mindful to not get carried away with it!
- If there is an unfamiliar word, look it up and write down the definition
- Make connections to your own experiences and thoughts
Ask questions while you read
You might ask yourself:
- What’s the thesis or what’s the purpose of the text?
- What evidence do they use to make their argument?
- Who’s the intended audience? Who’s the author?
- What are some repeated patterns throughout the text?
- Why did the author write this?
- What are the major themes in the text?
When you’re reading, keep your reading speed in mind.
When skimming, you should
Move your eyes down the page as you read quickly horizontally
Carefully read the introduction and conclusion - the argument or the author’s goal is in there
Look for a topic sentence in each paragraph that is usually in the beginning
Skip examples - you just want the main point
Don’t read complete sentences - the point of skimming is to read fast, so pick up phrases or terms that stand out
Slow down when you encounter
An unfamiliar word
Abstract ideas. Look for examples to help you understand the meaning. Remember that abstract ideas don’t have a physical form. Examples: freedom, love, etc.
Skim when you encounter
Familiar material; if you’re already familiar with the concepts, skim it
Detailed explanations you don’t need to know
Broad, basic ideas
While Reading: Identify transition words
Identify transition words in order to make connections between phrases and sentences
Also, moreover, additionally, furthermore
At the same time, equally important, likewise
For instance, for example, such as
Either, other than, otherwise
Again, to repeat, in other words
On the other hand, in contrast to, however, nevertheless, whereas
Therefore, hence, consequently, thus
If, whenever, although, unless
First, finally, next, last
Meanwhile, previously, afterwards, before
In conclusion, to summarize, in brief
Test your understanding of the text by doing the following:
- Review and summarize in your own words to ensure you comprehended what the reading was about
- Tell someone what you’ve read and learned
- Without looking at your notes and the text, recall what you read and see how well you did then look over your notes again