Active Reading Strategies | GUTS Tip

The best reading strategies are those that involve active reading. Active reading means reading to understand the material’s relevance for your needs. In other words, you want to engage with the text to get the most out of it.
Simply reading and re-reading is an ineffective way to learn and is therefore an ineffective way to study. Follow these tips below to learn new active reading strategies!

Underline. Get into the habit of underlining any key terminology or phrasing. This is an efficient way to help you quickly recognize the important details when you return to it. However, you want to be selective and underline the finer points because too much underlining won’t help.

Annotate. As you read, take notes in the margins by writing down important details, summarizing points, raising questions, jotting down examples, etc. Doing this will allow you to record your thoughts as you read that chapter, article, or paper and will make it easier for you to remember the purpose of that section when you come back to it.

Read critically. With each section that you read, ask yourself these questions: What’s the setting? Whose perspective is this in? Why does it matter? How does it connect to the material you’re covering in class? What does my professor want me to get out of this? There are numerous other questions to ask yourself in addition to these. So, the next time you’re reading something assigned by your TA and/or professor, do it critically!

SQ3R. Skim, Question, Read, Remember, Review. This is a proven technique for critical reading that many college students love and includes many of the strategies we’ve already talked about. This strategy is especially beneficial when you’re reading a text for the first time. Here are the steps in detail below:

  • Skim (or survey) through the text quickly to get the general idea and tone
  • Question. Convert headings/subheadings into questions to ask yourself while reading
  • Read to answer the questions you raised and focus to understand the overall purpose
  • Recite the information you read over from memory and pay attention to what you can’t recall
  • Review. Read the text in more detail focusing on bridging the gaps from what you weren’t able to remember. Take notes and use your own words.

If you want more information on active reading strategies and/or want to learn how to incorporate them into your study habits, please sign up for a study skills appointment!


Written by Sanjana Kumar

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*This is an opinion post. While the topics described here are mostly based on research, please keep in mind not to assume all of the information described above is factual.

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