2.2 Effective reading strategies
You are likely to already use some effective reading strategies in your day-to-day life. In this section you will read what some students say about their reading strategies and then compare them to your own.
It is useful to learn some strategies from people who are already reading academic texts.
Read what some current university students say about the way they read textbooks and other academic texts. Then answer the questions that follow.
- A.For my module, I have to read many chapters and articles. To keep concentrated, I always try to find a good reason for reading. One good reason is to read in order to find answers to the
assignmentquestion, but I often think of my own questions. So before I start reading about a topic, I think about what I already know about it and what else I would like to know. Sometimes the materials give you some questions to consider while reading.
- B.I think it also helps to read the introduction very carefully. It tells you what the chapter will be about and what you will be able to do after reading it. I find that it gives me the motivation to read.
- C.A good way to concentrate and remember what I read is to keep looking for ideas and examples that are relevant to me. So while I read, I ask myself: Does this happen to me or to people I know? Have I ever seen this? Do I agree? … It also helps to discuss what I have read with other students.
- D.I think it’s important to read actively. I read the key texts more than once. First I just check how long a chapter is, its headings, sections, images, and then I read it quickly to get a general idea, the
gist. When I know what the text is about, I read the key parts more carefully making notes. I find that making notes is a really good way to remember the content of the texts. I like using diagrams and tables and lots of colour. It helps me organise my ideas and remember what I read.
- E.I don’t read all the texts in the same way. Sometimes, I just need to find a specific piece of information, for example a date or a particular topic, so I just read it quickly to find this information. But if, for example, I have to read about a complex theory, I will read very carefully and more than once.
The students mentioned a variety of strategies but there were other useful ones they overlooked. Read the list below and try to identify which strategies weren’t mentioned. List them in the box with a note about why you think the strategy could be useful. Then compare your list with mine.
- Always read for a purpose.
- Before reading, ask yourself what you already know and what you want to learn about the topic.
- Write down some questions you hope the text will answer.
- Before reading a textbook chapter, check the learning outcomes.
- While reading, try to find information and theories that are relevant to you.
- While reading, keep asking yourself questions.
- As you read, record your thoughts in the margin or in a notebook.
- Read the same text two or three times. More may be necessary.
- Check the structure of the text before reading.
- When you read for the first time, look up only the words that are essential for understanding the text.
- When you read the second time, make notes.
- Try to use other information in the text to make sense of difficult words.
- Read differently depending on the purpose for reading.
The following strategies were not mentioned:
- Write down some questions you hope the text will answer. The student said they just think of some questions, but writing down those questions will help you to focus and structure your notes.
- As you read, record your thoughts in the margin or in a notebook. This is a good way to concentrate while reading. Sometimes your thoughts could be simple questions, such as ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’, which may make you want to reread certain parts or look for answers further in the text.
- When you read for the first time, look up only the words that are essential for understanding the text. This is sound advice: if you look up every word, you will probably lose track of what you are reading. It might be better to read whole paragraphs again to understand the general meaning before looking up words in the dictionary.
- Try to use other information in the text to make sense of difficult words. Sometimes the text in which these words are used can help you to understand their meaning.
Read the list of reading strategies again.
- a.Which of the strategies do you already follow?
- b.Which of them is new to you?
- c.Which would you like to try?
Make some notes in the box below.
You may already be following many of the strategies mentioned by the students. For example, many of us look at the length and structure of a text before reading it and it is normal to have to reread longer documents. The strategies mentioned by the students can help you to extend the skills you already have.
Making use of reading strategies can help to overcome the challenges faced when reading long and complex texts and, in particular, academic and specialist sources. They can also help you to read more actively. Through the next few activities you will learn and practise an active learning method.