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READING TECHNIQUES

Reading is a method of communication that enables a person to turn writing into meaning. It
allows the reader to convert a written text as meaningful language with independence,
comprehension and fluency, and to interact with the message.

Active readers use reading strategies to help save time and cover a lot of ground. Your
purpose for reading should determine which strategy or strategies to use.

1. Previewing the text to get an overview


What is it? Previewing a text means that you get an idea of what it is about without
actually reading the main body of the text.

When to use it: to help you decide whether a book or journal is useful for your purpose; to
get a general sense of the article structure, to help you locate relevant information; to help
you to identify the sections of the text you may need to read and the sections you can omit.

To preview, start by reading:

 the title and author details


 the abstract (if there is one)
 then read only the parts that ‘jump out’; that is: main headings and sub headings,
chapter summaries, any highlighted text
 examine any illustrations, graphs, tables or diagrams and their captions, as these
usually summarise the content of large slabs of text
 the first sentence in each paragraph

2. Intensive reading
What is it? Intensive reading is detailed, focused, ‘study’ reading of those important parts,
pages or chapters.

When to use it: When you have previewed an article and used the techniques of skimming
and scanning to find what you need to concentrate on, then you can slow down and do
some intensive reading.

How to read intensively:

 start at the beginning. Underline any unfamiliar words or phrases, but do not stop
the flow of your reading.
 if the text is relatively easy, underline, highlight or make brief notes (see ‘the
section on making notes from readings).
 if the text is difficult, read it through at least once (depending on the level of
difficulty) before making notes.
 be alert to the main ideas. Each paragraph should have a main idea, often contained
in the topic sentence (usually the first sentence) or the last sentence.
 when you have finished go back to the unfamiliar vocabulary. Look it up in an
ordinary or subject-specific dictionary. If the meaning of a word or passage still
evades you, leave it and read on. Perhaps after more reading you will find it more
accessible and the meaning will become clear. Speak to your tutor if your difficulty
continues.
 write down the bibliographic information and be sure to record page numbers (more
about this in the section on making notes from readings).

Remember, when approaching reading at university you need to make intelligent decisions
about what you choose to read, be flexible in the way you read, and think about what you
are trying to achieve in undertaking each reading task.

3. Extensive
What is it? Extensive reading is reading as much as possible, for your own pleasure, at a
difficulty level at which you can read smoothly and quickly without looking up words or
translating to English as you go. In other words, instead of spending a half hour decoding a
tiny part of one book (also known as intensive reading), you read many simpler books that
are at or slightly below the level at which you read fluently. This lets you get used to reading
more complex sentences with ease, reinforces the words you already know and helps you
learn new words from context.

What are the principles of extensive reading?

Start with stories that are well below your fluent reading level, and while reading, follow
these principles:

1. Don’t look up words in the dictionary.


2. Skip over parts you don’t understand.
3. If you aren’t enjoying one book, toss it aside and get another.

4. Skimming
What is it? Refers to the process of reading only main ideas within a passage to get an
overall impression of the content of a reading
selection.

How to Skim:

* Read the title.


* Read the introduction or the first paragraph.

* Read the first sentence of every other paragraph.

* Read any headings and sub-headings.

* Notice any pictures, charts, or graphs.

* Notice any italicized or boldface words or phrases.

* Read the summary or last paragraph.

5. Scanning
What is it? Is a reading technique to be used when you want to find specific information
quickly. In scanning you have a question in your mind and you read a passage only to find
the answer, ignoring unrelated information.

How to Scan:

* State the specific information you are looking for.

* Try to anticipate how the answer will appear and what clues you might use to help
you locate the answer. For example, if you were looking for a certain date, you
would quickly read the paragraph looking only for numbers.

* Use headings and any other aids that will help you identify which sections might
contain the information you are looking for.

* Selectively read and skip through sections of the passage.

Activity: #1

Using these descriptions, how would you read the following?

The ‘What’s On’ section of the local A poem:


paper:
The telephone directory:
A novel: A postcard:
A train timetable:
A newspaper:
A recipe:
A text in class: A travel brochure:
A contract: