Strategic Reading

Be strategic. Experiment with these strategies that ask you to engage with the material three times--before you start, as you read, and after you finish. This recursive process will boost your recall.

Before you start to read

  • Take 5 to 10 minutes to preview the reading.
  • Look at titles and words in bold. If there are no titles and bolded words, skip around and read a few phrases and sentences throughout the reading.
  • Use this time to get your bearings on the reading.
  • Identify one or two questions or topics that you hope to understand better by the time you finish reading (this may aid in focus).

As you read

  • Focus on the reading for a limited amount of time--15-30 minutes is a general goal, but everyone's ability to focus may vary.
  • Read actively and push forward.
  • Don't get too bogged down in the details--your goal right now is to get the overall main idea.
  • Watch for information that may answer questions that arose during your preview.
  • Read to understand a concept better, not just to "complete the reading."

After you read

  • After your time is up or you can tell you are no longer focusing well, stop.
  • Now go back over what you have read to pull out a few main ideas.
  • Jot down gist words in the margins, to help you remember a main point or to write a question to bring up in class.
  • Or jot down a list of key points in your notes. Just avoid writing too much; the notes you take on the reading should help you increase your understanding. You should not try to rewrite the book!
  • Notes aren't always necessary. Pause to reflect and review.
  • If needed, now is a good time to reread any key section you assess as worth closer review.

Refer to tips in the section on Effective Study Skills to go more in-depth on key points. If there is a section that was particularly challenging, talk to a classmate or your professor. Or seek tutoring by signing up in 208 D.D. Dougherty, either for a tutor in your subject or for an interdisciplinary tutor. Or sometimes you can find related books in the library or online that help you better understand a challenging section of your reading. Or you might want to set up a consultation with a college reading specialist.

For further practice, consider enrolling in RE 1010 Power Reading to practice various strategies to develop effective and efficient reading strategies.

A few websites that may also help:

  • Fun way to build vocabulary--vocabulary knowledge affects reading speed!
  • Great interactive website and very helpful definitions with sample sentences