Reading is much more than letting your eyes skim across the words on a page or screen. When a professor assigns a reading, they don’t much care whether your eyes have tracked every word in every sentence. They care that you understand what you have read. Unless you focus on that understanding, though, you are more likely to forget the ideas, even right after you have read them.
If you want to remember more of what you read, you need to pay attention while you do it. Reading is an activity, and as such, it requires your engagement if you are going to do it well.
People who read effectively use a variety of skills and techniques:
- They create an optimal setting for reading, picking the best time and place—particularly one with minimal distractions.
- They engage in pre-reading strategies to get an overview of the text before starting to read.
- They focus their reading: They know why they are reading before they start, and they use that knowledge to guide their reading.
- They annotate or take notes as they read, writing directly on the text if at all possible.
- They do quick research to gain familiarity with unfamiliar references.
- They work to discover the main point of the piece and to distinguish that point from supporting points and counterarguments.
- They work carefully through difficult sections of text.
- They expect to reread at least the most important or difficult parts of a text.
- They keep track of their responses to the text as they read.
- They summarize the text and reflect on what it means to them in order to internalize that meaning.
We’ll take each of these ideas in turn in the following chapters.
This chapter contains material taken from the chapter “Read Effectively” from The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear and is used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.