1 April 2019
A common mistake readers make when
tackling a new document or passage is to go straight to the first paragraph and
start reading right away. When you do that, sometimes you have already read
two or three paragraphs when you realize what the passage is about.
At that point, however, you have already missed a lot of information. So, you end up
having to start over from the first paragraph.
Worse yet, sometimes you finish the
(begin bold) whole passage (end bold)
when you realize you understood little or cannot remember much.
One of many ways to avoid this problem is simple and takes only a few
minutes: Read purposefully from the start.
Having to start over several times
is a sign you are reading ineffectively!
When presented with a passage, you know little or noting about
the author, the type of passage, or its content. If you start reading it right away,
it will likely take a few paragraphs, sometimes even a few pages, until you know
enough about the passage to start (begin bold) "getting it" (end bold)
At that point, you may realize that
- you need to start reading from the top again
because now you can understand the content better; or
- you did not really need to read it because you were looking for some different information.
So, how do you solve this problem?
The Solution: Read Purposefully
To read effectively, you should read purposefully from the start.
The key to reading purposefully is knowing something about the material
(begin bold) before (end bold)
you start actually reading it. Browse for information!
That is, skim
the passage for a couple of minutes.
Effective readers naturally skim any reading materials before they start reading,
and they do not even realize they do it. The read the title, identify the author, see
what type of publication it is (that is, a blog, magazine, book chapter, etc.) and
when it was published. They browse the passage for graphs, tables, illustrations,
and so on.
Analyzing this information before you start reading
takes only a couple of minutes, but you can glean a lot of value insight into the passage. Why is that important?
Focus Your Brain
Now that you have an idea what the passage is about, your brain will be ready
to receive the information you are going to read. When you know what ideas to expect,
you focus on those ideas. If there was information you did not understand when you skimmed,
you will likely focus on it when you read. If there were questions you thought about,
you will focus on answering them. If there were graphs about a certain point, you already
know that information is probably important, so you will read it attentively.
Adapt Your Strategy
You do not read different types of materials the same way (Pacton). For example,
if you read a novel, you focus on characters, themes, the plot, the meaning of symbols and
and so on. ("Allegory.") If you read a text book chapter explaining the steps in a
process, you take notes on each step, underline important explanations, and so on (Franco).
If you know something about the passage you are about to read, you adjust your
strategy to suit the type of passage. If it is a novel, you will focus on the literary
elements and the story; if it is a text book chapter, you will probably get out your
highlighter and a piece of paper to take notes on.
Ready to Read
Simply by analyzing the passage before you read it, you have gained some
insight into the material. Now, you are ready to read with more focus and with
the correct strategy. Your reading will have a specific purpose whether it is to
enjoy a story, to learn content, to understand instructions, or whatever the passage
"Allegory." Encyclopædia Britannica. Ed. Mansur G. Abdullah, Michael C. Anderson, Michael J. Anderson, Adam Augustyn, Marilyn L. Barton, et al. N.p., 19 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/16078/allegory
Franco, Marc. "The purpose of reading and writing." YouTube. N.p. 20 June 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2016. https://youtu.be/9u8vwDUABO4
Pacton, Adam. "reading purposefully microlecture." YouTube. N.p., 18 Dec. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. https://youtu.be/kU9hO_NiOTw
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