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Effective Reading


Before you begin reading, you need to prepare your environment. First, find good light and a quiet place to concentrate. Once that is done, you can spend a few minutes examining the material you are working with. Begin by checking the title of the piece and whether it provides a clue as to what will be discussed.

When the title gives you the subject matter and hints about how that subject matter is treated, you have an advantage; you know what you are looking for. But when it reveals only part of that information, you will need to go through a few paragraphs or even pages to acquaint yourself with is being said in the piece. Look for sub-headings, those titles that break the text, such as "Previewing" above. Search the sub-headings for clues as to how the material is to be treated. Then look at the visuals, the photographs or charts, and read the captions. That alone will give you an idea of what people, what items, what issues are going to be of importance in the piece. Some readers do this alone and make good sense of what the piece says without having to read everything.

When there are no sub-headings and no visuals, you can go through a section of what you are to read and look at the first and last sentences of each paragraph. Again, the information from those sentences will help you sense what the subject and main approach is, and will give you an idea of what to be looking for as you read.


When you read efficiently, you will want to use a pencil or pen to keep track of what you are reading. The most efficient way to read is to take notes in the margin and to underline key passages. When you have finished reading a piece once, go over your annotations. Reread them and see if they make sense to you. The marginal notations can include questions that you may wish to raise later, or personal reactions to what you have read. But no matter what use you make of your annotations, one thing is certain: annotating a text will keep you attentive and alert. It will also make it possible for you to return to it two weeks later and not have to re-read it all in order to understand and remember what you read.

Some tips for annotation:

1. Underline key terms and their definitions.
2. In the margins, note the subject matter of each paragraph.
3. Underline the statements that seem to draw conclusions.
4. As you annotate, make it your purpose to take note of all the points that you would need to know when you come back to the passage in two weeks’ time.
5. Remember, good annotation makes it possible to review what you have read and bring it back into your active memory.

-- Adapted from handout by Instructor Bridge, Chabot College

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    Phone: (510) 723-6600 | Last updated on 2/2/2017