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As a student, much of your study time is spent in reading. You read various kinds of materials: textbooks, journal articles, magazines, newspapers, and study guides. Reading is, therefore, a means whereby information stored in these materials can be obtained and used for a variety of purposes. Students read for such purposes as doing assignments, developing lecture notes, carrying out research (e.g. for term paper and thesis), preparing reports, writing examinations, and for recreational (relaxation) purposes. Reading is an indispensable part of every academic work. Basically, students read to understand, interpret and obtain information.

Here are important reading strategies that would facilitate comprehension and translate into great grades.

1. Identify the purpose of the reading before reading. Determining why you are reading helps you determine how to read. For example, reading for examination and reading for pleasure or to locate specific information require different kinds of reading speed. See my article on types of reading. Some students read a textbook the way they read their novels and magazines, with disastrous academic consequences.

2. Identify the structure and nature of the text. Most of your reading is for academic purposes. Since your purpose of reading is thorough understanding and successful recall of information, before you begin to read you need to preview the text to familiarize yourself with the layout and activate prior knowledge where applicable. The activities you need to engage in include:

  • reading the title and headings
  • looking at the pictures or diagrams
  • predicting what the passage might be about
  • asking yourself what you already know about the topic.
3. Identify main ideas. During reading, you need to focus on major ideas rather than minor, supporting details. One sure way of doing this is to locate topic sentences, supporting sentences, and concluding sentences as you read the paragraphs. Usually, the main ideas form the topic sentences. Furthermore, there are certain textual signals that can help you identify important information as well as relationships between ideas in the text. For instance, you should pay close attention to phrases or clauses in bold or italics. Below is a list of some textual signals:
  • graphical: type size, italics, underlining;
  • syntactical: word order, topicalization;
  • lexical: words like important, relevant, the subject is, the conclusion is;
  • semantic: thematic words and sentences, summarizing or introductory sentences, repetition; (*Winograd and Bridge 1986, p.25).
  • useful cues and signals of important relationships between ideas, e.g. markers which signal purpose, sequence and enumeration, examples, restatement, detours and resumption, cause and effect, comparison and opposition. Effective reading, therefore, involves being able to identify the important aspects of the message.

4. Thinking about what you are reading. While you’re reading, you need to think about what you’re reading. You should monitor ongoing activities to determine whether comprehension is occurring and taking corrective action when failures in comprehension are detected. The strategies to adopt include:
  • stopping sometimes and asking yourself what you’ve read about so far;
  • engaging in self-questioning to determine whether goals are being achieved;
  • engaging in predictions about what will occur next. To do this, you will rely on your prior knowledge and information in previous sections of the text you are reading.
  • adjusting reading speed/rate when necessary;
  • when you come to a word you don’t understand, you should formulate questions about the information to guess word meanings; look for contextual clues and try to figure it out or use a glossary or dictionary.
  • when you come to a part of the text that is confusing, you need to stop/pause & read it again, don’t just keep reading. Also try to get help from pictures or drawings.
5. Integrating reading and writing. As you read, you need to engage in the following: underlining and annotating the text, mapping, note taking, and summarizing. (Of course, if the text isn’t your personal copy, you shouldn’t underline and/or annotate it.) These writing activities help to ensure active interaction with the text. They also help you to monitor comprehension and provide a record of the information for future reference or revision. Note-making and summarizing are useful strategies you can use to condense the information in the text (since they are records of main or important information)s and useful for revision purposes.

6. When you’re done reading, review your understanding of what you’ve read. Think about what you’ve just read and compare what you’ve just read with what you already knew. Also, if there are confusing ideas, note them down for discussion with other students. If they are not resolved, see your lecturer for clarification. Lastly, if there are questions at the end of the text attempt them and then check your answers against the original text. You can formulate questions and try answering them in order to assess your comprehension of the text.

* Winograd, P.N. and Bridge, C.A. (1986). The comprehension of important information in written prose. In J.F. Baumann (Ed.) Teaching main idea comprehension (pp. 18-48). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Here’s to successful reading!

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  1. Vocabulary is not only sign of symbol for ideas but also a part of how to improve language skills in the target language. The more vocabulary students learn the more ideas they should have, so they can communicate by using their ideas more effectively. helps you to improve your Vocabulary.