Unit 3: Reading Effectively

College-level reading is different from reading for pleasure or even just skimming the news headlines in the morning. Simply reading for no other purpose than to say you finished misses the point. College-level reading, done purposefully, should challenge the way you as a person and a professional. The purpose of college-level reading is to get you to think!

After you have planned your unit and previewed your readings, what comes next? (If you haven't done either, be sure to read Unit 2 before going forward!) Now it's time to actually begin doing the reading. During the preview, you identified two questions you wanted to answer in the reading as well as conepts you would need to understand, so as you begin working through your reading, focus on those goals:

Read to Answer Questions

After you have completed a preview, begin by reading your textbook chapters (or other readings, such as articles or eGuides). As you read, keep a list of the questions you identified during the preview. These might include:

As you read, keep notes on scratch paper, on your Word Processor (in a file such as the digital notebook you downloaded in Unit 2), or anywhere you will find them again (even the margins of your book). In your notes, identify sections that address the questions you are asking. Remember, in many cases, the various bits of information that help you answer a question may not all be arranged together in the reading, so make sure you read the whole thing all the way through at least once. If might even help to stop at the end of each section and try to match each paragraph to one or more questions that you have asked.

Once you have gone through the reading at least once, use a notebook or Word file such as your digital notebook to record the questions you asked and the information you found on each.

Read to Understand Key Concepts & Ideas

At the same time you read in order to answer questions, you should also be keeping notes on your key concepts. In fact, you may want to go back through your reading a second time just to focus on the key concepts.

As you consider each key concept, see if you can identify the following:

When you are done, note how you thought about the concept or idea before you did the reading and how you thought about the concept after the reading. If you had head of it before, what did you think about it? If you had not heard of it before, what was your first impression or guess about what it meant? How did your understanding change?

More on Reading & Studying

In addition to what you have read above, here are some additional links that might help you improve your skills with reading and studying:

  • SQ3R (from San Antonio College) stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review — a study system very much like the one mentioned here.
  • M.U.R.D.E.R. (from Study Guides and Strategies) is another study strategy. It stands for Mood, Understand, Recall, Digest, Expand, Review. It puts an important emphasis on getting yourself into a positive mood to study and marking material you don't understand and finding ways to get help mastering that material.
  • Critical Thinking & The Art of Close Reading is the first part of the three-part series from CriticalThinking.org. This section covers purposeful reading and understanding both the author's purpose in writing and your purpose for reading. Part 2 looks at the importance of reading closely, and Part 3 looks specifically at how to use these skills in reading textbooks, newspaper articles, and editorials.