Textbook Strategies: While Reading

Knowing that various reading methods exist is key as you juggle all of the activities associated with your degree. Discovering which method needs to be employed with each assignment can save you time and energy, and help you achieve success.

Active Reading

The process of reading involves more than the act of reading; it involves five distinct, yet complementary areas of activity. This is known as SQ3R: Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review.

  • Survey: Skim over the text.
  • Question: Write down questions want to be answered.
  • Read: Read through the text.
  • Recall: Go over what you have just read.
  • Review: Record the information.

Skimming involves reading to get a general view of the text. Once you know the nature of your topic or assignment, you can effectively skim-read by looking at section headings and sub-headings of books and long journal articles to establish whether they are worth reading or not.

Helpful Hint: If a synopsis or article summary exists at the beginning of the work, this may be the key to discovering whether the article is helpful.

Scanning involves looking for particular information. You do this, for example, when you are looking for a name of an author on a page, a date, a topic in an index, etc., disregarding the rest of the text. If you have a question that needs answering, you may also look for particular keywords as you scan.

Helpful Hint: is the item you are scanning an online resource? Using the “Find” option on your browser (ctrl+f for most PCs) can help you find keywords faster!

Critical reading involves thinking and questioning what you are reading, challenging the assumptions made. Using the SQ3R technique will be most helpful as you critically examine resources. After the SQ3R technique has been done, try writing a journal reflection on the reading. What points did the author raise that resonated with you? Which points annoyed you, or did you find challenging? Why was this? How could the author have further developed their argument? What were the weak points of the argument, and why? By asking critical questions and reflecting, you are preparing to engage with the article and your peers as you discuss.

If you are satisfied that the text you have identified is the right material for your research, go back and read it more slowly for maximum understanding. Tackle small chunks of information at a time, a paragraph, a page or short chapter, whatever you can manage. Keep in mind the questions you are trying to answer and question what you are reading. Try taking notes to make answering your question or paraphrasing in an essay easier. Tackle difficult texts in small bites; paragraphs or a page at a time. The actual reading finishes with a review of what you have read. This is the time to compare what you have read with the questions you set out to answer at the start. Did you find answers to these, or was there a mismatch?

« Back to Student SuccessLast updated November 22, 2019