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1.4: Preparing to Read

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    Why Am I reading this?

    You may be thinking to yourself, “Prepare to read? Don’t I just pick the text up and read it?” The answer to this is yes and no. It depends on your purpose for reading.

    Homework 1: All the Things I Read

    You read all the time, and you have your own reasons for doing so. Brainstorm a list of all the different things you read throughout the day. Think about walking through the halls, driving down the road, sitting in a waiting room, etc. All of these different things we read change the way in which we read and affect the way we comprehend the world.

    1. In a complete paragraph (3-4 full sentences), write how the different things you read influence the way you approach reading, the purpose you have for reading, and the way you understand what you read.

    How to Read Academic Texts

    As you may have noticed, different purposes for reading affect the way you choose to read a given text. Academic texts are typically selected as a source of information or to provide a different perspective. You will be expected to learn from, explain, or use this kind of textual material to support your stance on a topic.

    The kind of passive reading you may do when you read a light novel will not be helpful for you with academic texts. For this kind of learning you will need to use active reading strategies.

    Active Reading Strategies

    Have you ever read something and then realized you don’t remember a word of what you just read? That is because you were passively reading – you were not engaged in the text. The following suggestions will help you to stay engaged in what you read so that you can learn it or use it later.

    Successful students approach reading with a strategy that helps them get the most out of their reading. These students read actively. They look for the main idea of the material, its themes, and for words they do not understand.

    The opposite of reading actively is reading passively. Passive readers simply skip over things they do not understand and have difficulty understanding the material as a result.

    In this course, we are going to practice active reading. You will find that active reading is more enjoyable, lets you understand more of what you have read, and leads to better test scores.


    Active reading strategies can significantly increase learning new information. SQ3R is one of the most popular active reading strategies designed to help retain information into long term memory. SQ3R is a five-step process.


    The five steps involved in the SQ3R include:

    Step 1. Survey – What can I learn from the text?

    Pre-reading Strategy – When you read an academic text, it is well worth your time to skim/scan the reading first. Think out loud the first few times you do this. Look for the title, headings/subheadings, bold words, graphics, and other features of the text that stand out to you, and make notes about these on the reading or in your notebook:

    • Skim the table of contents and write down three to five main ideas that will be presented in the text.
    • Write down important names, headings, and subheadings.
    • Look at the captions under images, tables, diagrams and maps; make notes of where this information exists.
    • Pay particular attention to the introductory and final paragraphs, which often contain a summary of the text. Write down a few key ideas from both paragraphs.

    Step 2. Question – What do I hope to learn from the text?

    Before reading a section, formulate your own questions and do the following:

    • Rephrase headings and titles into questions you hope to answer.
    • Look whether the author has formulated questions at the beginning or end of the section. Rewrite these questions in your own words.
    • Predict what you think the section will be about. Turn this prediction into a question you think the section will answer.
    • Recall what you already know about the topic and what you still want to learn about it.
    • Write out all the questions for consideration. You’ll find answers to the questions in the next step.

    Step 3. Read & Annotate! – Look for answers to your questions.

    • Always read with a pen and highlighter in hand (or keyboard). See the handout on “Annotating a Text” before reading your assigned text.
    • Read captions under images and diagrams. Pay attention to highlighted information.
    • Be open-minded – pay attention to new ideas and differing opinions.
    • Reduce your speed and/or stop and reread difficult and unclear parts.
    • Look for answers to the questions you first raised during the questioning that took place in step 2. Write out the answers to these questions.
    • Answer questions at the beginning or end of the chapters.
    • Note all the underlined, italicized, bold printed words or phrases.
    • Read only a section at a time and recite after each section.

    Step 4. Recite – Consider what you want to remember from the information obtained.

    • Think about what you’ve read and summarize the main ideas expressed in the section.
    • If you realize there is something you have not fully understood, reread that section.
    • Take notes, expressing ideas in your own words. Try your hand at the Cornell Notes strategy.
    • Reciting: The more senses you use the more likely you are to remember what you read. To triple strength learning apply: seeing, saying and hearing. To quadruple strength learning apply: seeing, saying, hearing, and writing!

    Step 5. Recall – Reread your notes and link the information with your own experience.

    • After reading the whole text, reread your own notes and pay attention to the main ideas and connections between the ideas.
    • Link what you have learned with your own experience and other sources of information.
    • This step is an ongoing process.


    In-Class Exercise 1.4: SQ3R

    1. Pre-read the book assigned by your instructor using Step 1 of SQ3R. Make notes about each bullet in Step 1 of SQ3R, and mark up the text with your pre-reading notation. Answer the following question in a complete paragraph.
    2. What have you learned from this article simply by pre-reading? Be sure to clearly identify and define the following: Topic, Author’s Point, and Key Terms.
    3. We will review your pre-reading notes in class. Then, in pairs or small groups, we will complete the SQ3R sequence. Be sure to bring your annotated article to class!

    This page titled 1.4: Preparing to Read is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Amee Schmidt & Donald Winter.

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