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College Resource Center : Accounting : General Study Aids : Active Reading Strategies

Active Reading Strategies

Be an Active Reader

  • Have a purpose for reading.
  • Preview the content to help you anticipate and channel what you read.
  • Look for ways to apply what you read to what you already know.
  • Think as you go and try to answer your own questions.
  • Create mental pictures to help you retain important concepts.
  • Pay attention to graphics and grasp their content.
  • Reread sections that are particularly difficult to improve comprehension.
  • Talk out loud to explore what you think the author is saying.
  • Underline, highlight, and take notes to reinforce the content of several sensory levels.
  • Look to other sources to reinforce the material.

Preview Your Textbook

  • Review the table of contents to learn how the material is organized at the unit and chapter level.
  • Consider the overall length of the book and the average length of each chapter or main section.
  • Look for information about the author(s) that might give insight into the text's point of view.
  • Look for objectives or introductory statements at the front of each chapter and read one or two to get a feel for the content at the chapter level.
  • Look for concluding paragraphs or summaries at the end of each chapter and unit.
  • Note the use of illustrations such as pictures, tables, and graphs.
  • Check the back of the book for appendixes, a glossary, and a detailed index.
  • Note how the publisher uses different type styles, type sizes, and colors to emphasize important information.
  • Look to see what kind of review questions and suggested activities are included at the chapter and unit level.

Pose Questions and Then Read to Find Answers

When you have questions, your natural tendency is to look for answers. In this way, knowing the questions that your reading material will answer will motivate you to uncover the answers. They will strengthen your sense of purpose. But posing questions does even more by putting your mind on alert to key information. You will be more prepared to recognize the answers when they are presented.

Before you start reading, ask yourself why the material was assigned. Do you know how it relates to the course goals? Look at the course syllabus and any other introductory materials that were given to you. Did your instructor already identify key questions? If your textbook contains end-of-chapter questions, use them. If you do need to create your own questions, phrase them in terms of what you want to learn. Use the information you gleaned from your preview of the material to be as specific as you can.

You may want to write your questions in the margin of your text. You can rewrite headings and subheadings as inquiries and then seek the answers as you read. Later you can test your recall by covering the text and reading your questions in the margin. Do you know the answers? If not, then reread until you have a good grasp of the material.

You can create questions to guide you through literature as well as standard textbooks. Ask yourself what the author's purpose is, who the characters are, and how the characters are developed. These questions will help you tune in to the material and zoom in on the answers.

Read More, Read Better

The more you read, the better you will become at reading. This is true whether you spend your time buried in a fashion magazine or a murder mystery, The New York Times, or the Encyclopedia Britannica. Any reading is practice that will improve your textbook reading ability. Your vocabulary will grow. Your knowledge base will expand. Your reading speed will pick up. So try to read more in your spare time.

Source: Adapted from College Success by Roberta Moore and Barbara Baker.

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