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WAC / Engineering & Technology

How to Read Effectively

Have you ever read the same sentence over and over but nothing sticks in your head? Here are some strategies to help you read effectively.

Pre-Reading Strategies

  1. Begin by looking at what your textbook offers:  table of contents, preface/introduction to the student, glossary, index, and appendix.
  2. At the chapter level, look at the big picture by going over the headings, subheadings, introduction, conclusion/summary, graphs/pictures and even the discussion questions. All of this information lets you know what the chapter is generally about.

During Reading Strategies

  1. While you are reading, keep in mind to look for author cues. These are words, phrases, sentences that you should pay attention to and are usually easy to spot because they are bolded, underlined, and/or italicized.  Sometimes you’ll know it’s important because the author uses the word or phrase repeatedly.
  2. Also, it might help to say your thoughts (or what you just read) out loud.
  3. It’s usually a good idea to have a pencil/pen handy while you are reading so you can write down important information, and jot down your own notes or questions you may have.
  4. If you prefer to use a highlighter, make sure you have a structured system such as only highlighting definitions. Otherwise, you might highlight too much.  Remember to mark sparingly; if you highlight too much, it defeats the purpose. Tip: use different colored highlighters (green is for definitions, pink is for main points, yellow is for areas you have questions about).
  5. If you prefer to take notes on a separate piece of paper or type notes onto your computer, remember to only add the key points or definitions. Once again, if you write too much, it defeats the purpose.  Tip: if you use abbreviations, remember to be consistent; you may not always remember what they stand for later when you are studying for a test.

Post Reading Strategies

  1. Answer the discussion questions at the end of the chapter. Go over your notes or the reading to double check your answers. Tip: Sometimes there is an answer section in your textbook.
  2. Bring any questions you may have after the readings and ask your instructor for clarification. Remember to add your instructor’s responses to your notes.