Q. What is active reading? How do I do it?


Active reading is part of a reading comprehension strategy that should also include pre-reading and post-reading activities.

SQ3R is a reading strategy that include pre-reading, active, and post-reading elements.

More on active reading:

Active reading means the reader is engaged in the text that he or she is reading. You can be an active reader by....

  • Reading with a specific focus
    • Keep in mind what information you are looking for as you read
    • Find two or three things your instructor might put on the next test
    • Separate main ideas from supporting details, fact from opinion
  • Breaking the text up into portions
    • Do not feel you have to read the whole text in one sitting
    • Set a timer and stop after 20–25 minutes and take a 5-minute break
    • Before you begin reading again, think about/process what you were reading
    • Skip around in the text to find relationships among ideas in it
  • Questioning the text as you read
    • Did the author get everything right?
    • Is there information you expected to find but did not?
    • Did any information surprise you?
    • What do you want to know more about?
    • Write questions in the margins
  • Taking notes as you read
    • While reading the chapter, write symbols next to the sentences as you think they are necessary.  
    • Construct your own code for things that you agree/disagree with, are noteworthy, are confusing, etc.
    • Write down important points and facts you want to remember
    • Consider using formalized note-taking system for note taking, like the Cornell system
    • Have someone "quiz" you a day after the reading to actively check your comprehension of the material

If you get stuck...

  • Use context clues, charts, tables, and pictures to help you understand the information
  • When you come across unknown vocabulary, try to guess what the word means based on content, and circle words to come back to later if you need to
  • Don’t fixate too long on one word because it could cause you to lose your momentum
  • Ask for help when you need it!
  • Last Updated May 14, 2021
  • Views 35669
  • Answered By Ashley Fyvie, Graduate Studies Librarian

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