The Commons
Lady with booksHave you ever finished a reading something and wondered, “What did I just read?

You're not alone.

The following are tips to help you read effectively and absorb the information you need.

10 Ways to Make your Reading More Effective! arrow View
Skim or Preread. A quick glance at the titles, headings, bold font terms, captions of figures, and end of chapter questions will give your brain a framework in which to fit the information you will read.

Rephrase each paragraph in your own words. As you read, check that you’re understanding by trying to put the main points in your own words.

Read out loud. This helps concentration and often comprehension, because it slows you down enough to catch all the words.

Highlight or underline after you read a paragraph or section. This will force you to reflect on what are the really important points, and to choose wisely with the full information. See the back panel for highlighting tips.

Write key words or notes in margin. Just like highlighting helps, adding words such as “definition”, “3 examples” or “summary” can really help comprehension during reading, and speed up studying later.  

Use a dictionary or glossary. Look up terms you don’t know, and jot their meaning or an equivalent word in your text beside the word. The moments used to do this are vital for comprehension.

Reread difficult sections. Sometimes you just have to read the hard stuff again to get it!

Mark parts you don’t understand and get help. Put a “?” in your margin, and get it sorted out as soon as you can, by yourself or with a fellow student or the instructor. It’s 10 times as hard to learn something you don’t understand!

Take a textbook tour. Flip through your text to make sure you’re not missing some really useful part--the glossary, index or answer key.

Take notes after you read. Save yourself time! If you take notes after reading a section, you’ll have a better idea of what’s really important, and you likely won’t have to write as much.
Effective Highlighting arrow View
You can’t erase highlighting (unless you buy the erasable kind), so it’s wise to highlight carefully!

Too much highlighting makes it hard to read again later, and especially hard to find important points. A maximum 10 to 20% of a passage should be highlighted to capture key points. These tips should help you highlight well:
  • Read first, then highlight. Highlighting as you read inevitably leads to too much highlighting. You need full information to decide what is key. 
  • Recite to help you decide what to highlight. Putting the key points in your own words will help you decide what is important enough to highlight. 
  • Use your purpose for reading to help you decide. Remember why you’re reading. If you are looking for a specific answer or information, confine your highlighting to this. 
  • Still not sure - try underlining first, then highlight later. This will give you a second chance to decide after thinking about it. 
  • When in doubt, highlight less. You can always add more later. 
SQ3R arrow View
Skim - Before reading, skim through to set up a “scaffold” in your brain where all the information is going to go. In skimming, you’ll read only:

  • all titles, headings 
  • anything in bold font 
  • the captions of all figures 
  • end of chapter questions 
Question - As you skim, form questions in your mind that you’ll look to answer as you do the full reading. For example, a title can be reworded as a question, like “What is the function of the respiratory system?”
Read - Do the reading, looking for the answers to your questions.
Recite - At the end of a section, think of your questions and test your recall of the answers from memory.
Review - At the end of the entire reading, flip back through each heading, testing your memory of your answers.