Reading for Specific Information
Reference Material, Internet Sources, Databases, and Computer Manuals
When you read to find specific information, you are usually looking to answer questions, learn how to do something, or locate material that will help you make a decision or draw a conclusion about something. The skills necessary for reading for specific information include determining your specific purpose, determining the authors purpose and perspective, knowing how to interpret tables, graphs, icons, and other visual aids, and using an effective approach to the task.
Scan: After you have set a reading goal, look over the material and determine how it is structured. How is it sectioned? Is there a table of contents, a glossary, an index, a help section? Will these sections help you jump quickly through the text to find specific information? On the Internet, check for a site map that gives an overview of the material presented. Skim over any introductory or preface section to the material.
Examine: Now, look more closely at how the content is laid out. Each reference book presents material in an organized manner, but this manner varies from text to text. Computer manuals, for example, are often set up in one of the following three ways: sequenced directions explaining how to perform a task, sequenced illustrations showing how to perform a task, or descriptive paragraphs that state in detail the purpose and use of each software function. Observe how the text is organized and note the pattern of the headings, subheadings, icons or hyperlinks, and visuals.
Act: Begin seeking the information you wish to find. Keep focused on your purpose, and use the helps given in the text or on the site, such as indexes, tables of content, or section headings to find material that answers your questions. Keep a notebook nearby, and jot down page numbers, authors names, titles, and cues that will help you return to the material quickly. Or, use note cards to list separately each source you discover. When reading a computer manual, begin "hands-on" work as soon as possible, even if you make mistakes. You will learn as much or more by correcting your mistakes than when you follow the given steps correctly.
Review: Once you have found the information you are searching for, go back and review you research purpose and compare it to the material you have found. Highlight the most important sources, and discard or put in a subordinate category those sources that are interesting but that may not support your research directly. Determine whether the information you have gathered is complete or whether you need to continue your search. When learning a new computer program, return to review the text after you complete a hands-on lesson to reinforce its concepts and steps.
Connect: Return to any visual aids such as graphs, tables, callouts, illustrations, or diagrams and connect them with what you have learned either from the textual material or from your hands-on work. Determine whether the visuals are helpful in clarifying your knowledge of the subject and what new information they may give you. Consider how the illustrations complement the textual information. State the lesson from the visual information in your own words.
Hunt: Finally, take a few moments to look up any unfamiliar words or concepts you encountered in your search. Make sure you understand technical terms, abbreviations, and acronyms provided in the text. Write the definitions in your notebook.
After working through the steps of SEARCH, you are now ready to use the information you have found through your research by presenting it to your class, incorporating it into a research paper, or putting it directly into action.
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