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Reading Strategies

Active Reading Strategies

Here are some tips to effectively read and analyze a text:

1. Formulate Questions and Look for Answers When Reading

  • What is the writer’s main idea?
  • Where have I heard about this idea before?
  • What do I know about this subject?
  • What evidence is the author using to support his/her point? (e.g., examples, comparisons, statistics, stories)
  • What does the author assume I already know about this subject? (e.g., assumes I support environmental issues?)
  • What is the author’s purpose for writing? (e.g., change reader’s mind, provide new information, report research findings)

2. Pay Attention to Language

  • Does the writer use a word I don’t know? Does the writer use a word in a new way? What does it mean here? (Use the dictionary to find the meaning in this context.)
  • Based on the language, who do you think might read this article, book, document, text, or poem? (e.g., children? other professionals in the field? parents? school teachers?)
  • What patterns of words does the author use to shape the reader’s attitude? (e.g., “career politician” or “experienced politician”? “baby killer” or “supporter of women’s choice”?)
  • How does the author signal the organization of his/her writing? How do those signals help me understand the writer’s structure? (e.g., transitions or headings)

3. Look for the Writer's Place in the Big Picture

  • Into what field(s) of study does this topic fit? (Where does the study of widespread political corruption fit in criminal justice? in corrections and policing?)
  • Why would this author write about this subject? (Is the writer representing an organization? presenting an opinion? announcing new research?)
  • Where was this published? (e.g, academic journal? newspaper? popular magazine? website?)

4. Ask: What Have I Learned?

  • What could I tell someone about this subject in 2-3 sentences?
  • How does this information connect with information I already know?
  • What new information have I gained?
  • What different viewpoint have I seen?
  • Do I agree with this author? Why? Why not? What evidence supports my perspective?