English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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English: skills for learning

3.4 In-depth reading to find the key points

If, after skimming the text, you decide to read it more closely and gain an in-depth understanding of its topic, the next step consists of reading the full text and identifying the key points. An effective way to identify key ideas is to highlight important parts of the text by underlining or using a highlighter pen.

This approach is designed to select and focus only on the core meanings of an extract. Highlighting involves making judgements about what is important. It is not about capturing every detail but getting a general overview of the key ideas.

Therefore, it is important to highlight only very few words and phrases in each paragraph. Paragraphs usually focus on one key point and, while they may include an illustrative example that may be useful, it is the main point that you need to identify first and foremost.

To illustrate this technique, I have highlighted the first two paragraphs of the text on malnutrition. (To be readable on screen, they are shown in bold rather than actually ‘highlighted’.)

[P1] To stay healthy, the body’s needs for energy and nutrients must be met. This is particularly important in growing children as damage inflicted may not be reversible and can affect normal development. People whose diet lacks the necessary nutrients suffer from malnutrition, a condition that includes both over-nutrition and under-nutrition and is considered a risk factor for health.

Under-nutrition

[P2] Under-nutrition is in news reports of famines in poor countries, but it can also be found in developed countries. In industrialised countries, under-nutrition can be seen in young people who have eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, where the amount of energy they consume in food is less than the needs of their body.

As you can see, in the first paragraph I have only highlighted the word ‘malnutrition’ and words that help to define it. In the second paragraph, I have highlighted words that refer to the location of under-nutrition (poor countries, industrialised countries), information about under-nutrition in industrialised countries (young people, eating disorders) and a definition of under-nutrition. I have not highlighted the examples.

You will find that more words and phrases need to be highlighted if a paragraph contains a great deal of core information. This is why several words and phrases are highlighted in paragraph 2.

The next activity gives you the opportunity to practise highlighting a text. You will need to print out the text and have a pen or highlighter pen handy.

Activity 10

Allow approximately 15 minutes

If you haven’t already done so, download the text on malnutrition [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   you skim read in Activity 7 and print it out. Read Paragraphs 3 to 7 and underline or highlight the key points they make. If you find new words, at this stage only look them up if they are essential to understand the overall meaning of a sentence. When you have finished, compare your highlighted text with mine.

Note: You will return to this text in a later activity so please keep your highlighted copy.

Answer

The key points are highlighted (in bold).

[P1] To stay healthy, the body’s needs for energy and nutrients must be met. This is particularly important in growing children as damage inflicted may not be reversible and can affect normal development. People whose diet lacks the necessary nutrients suffer from malnutrition, a condition that includes both over-nutrition and under-nutrition and is considered a risk factor for health.

Under-nutrition

[P2] Under-nutrition is in news reports of famines in poor countries, but it can also be found in developed countries. In industrialised countries, under-nutrition can be seen in young people who have eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, where the amount of energy they consume in food is less than the needs of their body.

[P3] If children’s diets are too low in energy, they will stop growing and gaining weight. They will become lethargic, less active and be unable to concentrate. If the situation continues, they may develop life-threatening diseases. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2012) reports that 100 million children under the age of five are underweight and 35% of all deaths of children under five are caused by malnutrition.

[P4] When people suffer from under-nutrition, they are often deficient in vitamins and minerals needed by the body. For example, they may not have enough Vitamin A. If this deficiency is not tackled, eyesight may be permanently damaged. Lack of iron is another very common form of deficiency. This helps to explain why about 50% of women in India suffer from some degree of anaemia.

Over-nutrition

[P5] Over-nutrition is usually associated with industrialised countries, although it is now also a problem among affluent people in developing countries. The main problem is that the amount of energy consumed in food is greater than the needs of the body and this can result in people becoming overweight or obese. As with under-nutrition, this may lead them to become lethargic, less active and less able to concentrate.

[P6] Further health problems will arise over time, particularly if the diet is high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature; examples include animal fats, dairy products and coconut and palm oil. Eating a diet high in saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, arthritis, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.

[P7] Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body has trouble making its own insulin to control the level of sugar in the blood. Because it tends to develop in adults, it is also known as adult-onset diabetes. However, growing numbers of young adults and children are now developing it.

Comment

The number of words and phrases that you chose to highlight may differ from mine because we may have different perceptions regarding what is important in this text. However, we probably agree that the core information includes the types of people affected as well as the definitions, location, causes and effects of under-nutrition and over-nutrition.

What you highlight also depends on your purpose for reading. For example, if I were only interested in details about the likely effects of malnutrition, I would underline the examples as well.

SWE_1

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