Reading Skills for Academic Study

Efficient reading skills

Skimming to get an overall impression.

Skimming is useful when you want to survey a text to get a general idea of what it is about. In skimming you ignore the details and look for the main ideas. Main ideas are usually found in the first sentences of each paragraph and in the first and last paragraphs. It is also useful to pay attention to the organisation of the text.

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, if you need to read the text in detail, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. Skimming a text for gist can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

Skimming a text using first lines of paragraphs.

In most academic writing, the paragraph is a coherent unit, about one topic, connected to the previous and next paragraphs. Paragraphs are organised internally and the first sentence of each paragraph is often a summary of, or an introduction to, the paragraph. You can therefore get a good idea of the overall content of a text by reading the first sentence of each paragraph. This should help you get a feeling for the structure of the text. In many cases that will be enough, but if it isn't, you will now have a good idea of the structure of the text and you will find it easier to read in detail. Familiar texts are easier to read.

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, if you need to read the text in detail, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. Skimming a text using first lines of paragraphs can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

Exercises

Try these exercises: Exercise 1, Exercise 2, Exercise 3, Exercise 4, Exercise 5, Exercise 6

Skimming a text using first and last paragraphs.

In most academic writing, the text is organised clearly with an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction gives you an idea of what the text is going to be about and the conclusion shows that this is what it has been about. You can therefore get a good idea of the overall content of a text by reading the first and last paragraphs of a text. This should help you get a feeling for the content of the text. In many cases that will be enough, but if it isn't, you will now have a good idea of the content of the text and you will find it easier to read in detail. Familiar texts are easier to read.

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, if you need to read the text in detail, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. Skimming a text using first and last paragraphs can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

Exercises

Try these exercises: Exercise 1, Exercise 2, Exercise 3

Skimming a text, using section headings.

In some academic writing, the text is organised through the use of headings and sub-headings. You can therefore get a good idea of the overall content of a text by reading the headings and sub-headings first. This should help you get a feeling for the content and organisation of the text. In many cases that will be enough, but if it isn't, you will now have a good idea of the content of the text and you will find it easier to read in detail. Familiar texts are easier to read.

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. The title, sub-titles and section headings can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

Exercises

Try these exercises: Exercise 1, Exercise 2