Strategies to Use before You Read
Set Goals Every Time You Read
Your goal should be to comprehend the important ideas and significant material in the reading. Your goal is not simply to read the assigned readings. Force yourself to set off with the goal of comprehension and you will find it easier to use the strategies for effective reading.
Understand Why You Are Reading
Is it to study for exam? Contribute to discussion? Prepare for lecture? Write a paper? Different purposes require different types of comprehension and can shape your goals.
Activate Prior Knowledge In Your Working Memory
It is easier to learn something new if you can connect it to something you already know. If you do not immediately recognize your prior knowledge, stop to ask yourself questions. What do you know about the topic? What have you heard? What do you know about related topics?
For example, when studying World War I you might ask yourself, What do I know about European international relations during the time? Or, what do I know about the governments of individual countries?
Examine The Structure Of The Text
- Begin with the table of contents to understand the structure of the text
In a text book each chapter will cover a specific topic. These might be part of a larger story or different topics within a discipline. In a psychology textbook you might have chapter titles like biological psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, personality, and developmental psychology. Each of these introduces the main subfields of psychology. Understanding this will help you understand what you are reading. Chapter titles in a history textbook of “The Producing Classes and the Money Power”, “Change and Continuity in In Daily Life, 1900-1914”, and “Radicals and Reformers in the Progressive Era” show you the narrative path and argument the author is taking to cover the material in American history in the early twentieth century.
- More specialized books might not have as easily recognizable chapter titles, but they will still provide some clue to help understand the structure.
- Novels might not have chapters that reveal structure.
- Next survey headings within chapters
Headings fulfill the same function as chapter titles. The author uses them to help the reader understand the structure of the information or to mark the flow of the argument.
- Read the preface or introduction, chapter overviews, and chapter summaries
- Authors will often uses prefaces and introduction to explain their argument, how they organized the book, and reasons for writing the book. Understanding the argument will help you understand the structure of the text, making it easier to learn the material presented. In many disciplines, different authors have different theoretical perspectives. If you understand the author’s perspective from the start, you will have an easier time following the argument and learning the material. In addition, you will understand what parts of the book call for further investigation and questioning on your part.
- Reading the chapter summaries gives you an overall all picture of the author's argument and will often connect the chapter with the previous and next chapters.
- By first reading the introductions and summaries you can learn the author’s main points which will help you focus on them as you read the chapter.
- Identify whether the reading is expository or narrative
- Expository text conveys information
- Narrative tells a story
- Scott W. Vanderstoep and Paul R. Pintrich, Learning to Learn: The Skill and Will of College Success (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003).
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