We’ve all done it – read an article or chapter and not recall much of what we read. Scholarly reading is different than reading for enjoyment. Many students don’t recognize the difference and read everything like a novel. Scholarly reading requires critical reading skills. Critical reading means reading with the goal of finding deeper understanding of the material. It is the act of analyzing and evaluating what you are reading while you are reading it or as you reflect back on what you read.
In order to improve reading skills, you have to improve your overall knowledge. Reading comprehension is more than just understanding the words written on the page. It entails understanding the references and concepts made in the reading. This is a great reason to take a variety of classes in a variety of subject areas. The more you know, the more your reading skills will improve.
Some of your classes may require more reading than others. Regardless of the amount of reading required, stay on top of it. Don’t fall behind. You may think you can pass the class without doing all of the reading. You may, but you are not getting full comprehension of the subject and your grade may suffer.
Some strategies that you can use to improve your critical reading skills are listed below. Keep in mind that a few of the strategies may be enough to improve your reading skills. The goal is to develop skills that help you throughout your life, not just for a class.
The preface will provide essential information for understanding the author’s perspective. Usually included in the preface are the author’s objective, an explanation of the organization of the book, why the book is different than others, and the author’s background and credentials. The introduction provides an overview of the book and background information. The table of contents provides information about the structure and the ideas presented. The index provides a list of specific names, places, and ideas included in the book.
Understanding textbooks and articles often requires more than one reading. It can take two, three, or even more readings to grasp difficult concepts. You may not need to read the entire text several times, but use multiple reading for concepts you find difficult to understand.
Take brief notes while reading by adding short notes in the margins of your book and by minimal underlining. Pay attention to sections where you might want to take more notes. After reading, go back and take more extensive notes where you need them. Avoid the temptation to highlight every line. Heavy highlighting usually marks what you should learn rather than focusing on learning it. Don’t be afraid to mark up your book. You paid for it – it’s yours.
Read the assigned chapter before class so you are familiar with the material beforehand. Note questions and difficult material, and get answers during class.
What prior knowledge do you have about the subject? Think about the purpose of the reading and what you are supposed to get out of it. Think about any missing information.
Read sitting up, with a good light, at a desk or table. Keep background information to a minimum. Give yourself a quiet environment to read in. Keep a pen and paper in reach to record notes and questions.
Break long assignments into segments. Read 10 pages then do something else. Later, read the next 10 pages. Continue in this manner until the reading assignment is complete.
Often, you will find a list of vocabulary words at the end of each chapter. You will find words listed that are specific to that chapter. If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms, look them up. If there are questions at the end of the chapter, read them before starting to read. This will help you to read with focus and purpose, which is a large part of reading comprehension.
One proven method for more efficient reading is the SQ3R method. It is designed to help you read faster and retain more of what you read. SQ3R stands for the steps in reading: survey, question, read, recite, review. It might seem like the SQ3R method takes more time, but most people find that it helps you to retain more and reread less. The steps for the SQ3R method are:
Reading comprehension requires practice. Vary the types of materials you read. Reading different types of reading will improve your reading abilities. If you experience problems with reading and reading comprehension after trying these tips, use the resources available at your school. The academic help center can provide more assistance.
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