– Richard Steele
Questions to consider:
- What methods can you incorporate into your routine to allow adequate time for reading?
- What are the benefits and approaches to active reading?
- Do your courses have specific reading requirements?
- Identify common types of reading tasks assigned in a college class
- Describe the purpose and expectations of academic reading
- Identify effective reading strategies for academic texts: SQ3R Method
- Explore strategies for approaching text on specialized platforms, such as online text
- Identify vocabulary-building techniques to strengthen your reading comprehension
Expectations of Academic Reading
One fact about reading for college courses that may become frustrating is that, in a way, it never ends. For all the reading you do, you end up doing even more rereading. It may be the same content, but you may be reading the passage more than once to detect the emphasis the writer places on one aspect of the topic or how frequently the writer dismisses a significant counterargument.
For most of what you read at the college level, you are trying to make sense of the text for a specific purpose—not just because the topic interests or entertains you. You need your full attention to decipher everything that’s going on in complex reading material—and you even need to be considering what the writer of the piece may not be including and why. This is why reading for comprehension is a continuous process.
Specifically, this boils down to seeing reading not as a formula but as a process that is far more circular than linear. You may read a selection from beginning to end, which is an excellent starting point, but for comprehension, you’ll need to go back and reread passages to determine meaning and make connections between the reading and the bigger learning environment that led you to the selection—that may be a single course or a program in your college, or it may be the larger discipline.
People often say writing is rewriting. For college courses, reading is rereading.
Understanding the Reading Process
Strong readers engage in numerous steps, sometimes combining more than one step simultaneously, but knowing the steps nonetheless. They include, not always in this order:
- bringing any prior knowledge about the topic to the reading session,
- asking yourself pertinent questions, both orally and in writing, about the content you are reading,
- inferring and/or implying information from what you read,
- learning unfamiliar discipline-specific terms,
- evaluating what you are reading, and eventually,
- applying what you’re reading to other learning and life situations you encounter.
Do you have trouble remembering your notes even after reading and re-reading them? Centennial College’s Learning Centre is here to help you with this unique study strategy, called Spaced Retrieval. The Learning Centre shares some practical tips to help you incorporate spaced retrieval into your own studies for greater learning success. After you read your course materials, you put them aside. Without looking, you try to remember what you just read. You can say it out loud, write it down, draw a diagram, teach someone else the material, or answer practice questions.) When you space out the time between the retrieval practice, you have a greater ability to remember the information. Watch this video to learn more, and upgrade your studying!
To Access the Video Transcript:
1. Click on “YouTube” on the bottom-right of the video. This will take you directly to the YouTube video.
2. Click on the More Actions icon (represented by three horizontal dots)
3. Click on “Open Transcript”
Reading Strategies that Work!
Active reading involves these steps:
1. Preparing to Read
Your textbook as a whole – Start by thinking about why your professor has chosen this text. Look at the table of contents; how does it compare with the course syllabus?
Your chapter as a whole – Explore the chapter by scanning the pages of the chapter to get a sense of what the chapter is about. Look at the headings, illustrations and tables. Read the introduction and summary. Understanding the big picture of the chapter will help you add the details when doing close reading.
Give yourself direction by creating a purpose or quest for your reading. This will help you become more actively engaged in your reading. Create questions to find the answers to in your reading using the headings of each section. You may also have learning objectives listed at the front of each chapter which could be turned into questions or you may have chapter review questions prepared for you at the end of the chapter.
Take the first question you have prepared and think about what you already know about this question. Jot the question down on paper. Begin to read the chapter and stop when you have found the answer.
Write down the answer in short form. Leave some space for additional notes you may want to add later and add the next question. Continue reading this way until you are done the chapter or are done studying for this session.
3. Capturing the key ideas
Before you put away your textbook and notes at the end of a reading session, go back through the questions you answered and pull out key ideas and words. You can highlight these, jot them in the space you left below your answer or note them in the margins.
4. Reviewing what you read
For each question, cover up the answer and key ideas you have written. Can you still answer the question? Check your mental review against what you have written.
The SQ3R Reading Strategy
You may have heard of the SQ3R method for active reading in your early education. This valuable technique is perfect for college reading. The title stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review, and you can use the steps on virtually any assigned passage. Designed by Francis Pleasant Robinson in his 1961 book Effective Study, the active reading strategy gives readers a systematic way to work through any reading material.
Survey/ Scan is similar to skimming. You look for clues to meaning by reading the titles, headings, introductions, summary, captions for graphics, and keywords. You can survey almost anything connected to the reading selection, including the copyright information, the date of the journal article, or the names and qualifications of the author(s). In this step, you decide what the general meaning is for the reading selection.
Question is your creation of questions to seek the main ideas, support, examples, and conclusions of the reading selection. Ask yourself these questions separately. Try to create valid questions about what you are about to read that have come into your mind as you engaged in the Survey step. Try turning the headings of the sections in the chapter into questions. Next, how does what you’re reading relate to you, your school, your community, and the world?
Read is when you actually read the passage. Try to find the answers to questions you developed in the previous step. Decide how much you are reading in chunks, either by paragraph for more complex readings or by section or even by an entire chapter. When you finish reading the selection, stop to make notes. Answer the questions by writing a note in the margin or other white space of the text.
You may also carefully underline or highlight text in addition to your notes. Use caution here that you don’t try to rush this step by haphazardly circling terms or the other extreme of underlining huge chunks of text. Don’t over-mark. You aren’t likely to remember what these cryptic marks mean later when you come back to use this active reading session to study. The text is the source of information—your marks and notes are just a way to organize and make sense of that information.
Recite/ Repeat means to speak out loud. By reciting, you are engaging other senses to remember the material—you read it (visual) and you said it (auditory). Repetition also helps with retaining content in your memory. Stop reading momentarily in the step to answer your questions or clarify confusing sentences or paragraphs. You can recite a summary of what the text means to you. If you are not in a place where you can verbalize, such as a library or classroom, you can accomplish this step adequately by saying it in your head; however, to get the biggest bang for your buck, try to find a place where you can speak aloud. You may even want to try explaining the content to a friend.
Review is a recap. Go back over what you read and add more notes, ensuring you have captured the main points of the passage, identified the supporting evidence and examples, and understood the overall meaning. You may need to repeat some or all of the SQR3 steps during your review depending on the length and complexity of the material. Before you end your active reading session, write a short (no more than one page is optimal) summary of the text you read.
- Can you think of times you have struggled reading college content for a course?
- Which of these strategies might have helped you understand the content?
- Why do you think those strategies would work?
- You are expected to keep up with your chapter and other readings independently. While your professor may not remind you, the expectation is that you will have read and understood the chapter material for the topics listed in the course outline for that week BEFORE class begins.
- Active reading is a process of preparing, reading, capturing key ideas and reviewing.
- To prepare, scan/ survey the chapter to find out what the chapter is about. Give yourself direction by creating questions. Write down your first question and read until you find the answer. Write down your answer, leave some space and move on to the next question. Repeat. At the end of your reading session, go back and pull out key ideas and words to add in the spaces between questions. Review by mentally answering the questions and check yourself against your reading notes. This method is called the SQ3R Reading Method.
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Attributions and References
This chapter contains adaptations from:
Stewart, I., & Maisonville, A. (2019). A Guide for Successful Students. St. Clair College.
Book URL: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/studyprocaff/
Section URL: https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/studyprocaff/chapter/reading-2
License: CC BY SA: Attribution
Baldwin, A. (2020). College Success. Provided by: Open Stax.
Book URL: Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/1-introduction
Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/college-success/pages/5-2-effective-reading-strategies
License: CC BY: Attribution