Archive | February 2015


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I must admit, when I went to university. I was so overwhelm with the mass of books I have to read in just 1 term (5 months). On my time, and I have no idea if it’s still the same now, perhaps you can comment on this.  We take 4 units = 4 courses per semester = 4 lectures. Likewise each one gave us 3 books to read to present out final course assignment and report to successfully pass. So, I clearly remember been there in my 2 week at university with the doubting thought on how I would do to be able to read 12 big books in 5 months??….did it happen to you?

So much of your time at university is spent reading, it has got to be worth your while to spend a little time exploring the strategies you can use to get better at it and develop the mindset (and skills) of reading critically. Below are suggestions for starting points for both aspects of reading.


Efficient reading is an active process. It integrates pre-reading strategies with active notetaking and mapping. Focus on what you want to find out from the text and choose an appropriate reading strategy to meet your reading goals.

Reading strategies – Surveying/pre-reading

Look quickly over the whole text. Ask yourself:

• What is it about? What is likely to be covered?

• How does this fit with what I already know about the topic?

• Is it useful for my purpose?

• Is it a current, authoritative, academically suitable text?

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Skim – Look over the whole text and read quickly to find:

• The general idea

• The focus of the content.

− Read the title and abstract, the summary, or the introduction. Focus on information that tells the reader what the article is about. Note the main points covered.

− Read the conclusion. Focus on the summary or repetition of the main points.

− Read any headings, sub-headings and words in bold or italics. Note the key words.

− Read the topic sentence of each paragraph (usually the first sentence). Note the main idea contained in each topic sentence.

− Look for linking words that show the connections between ideas, e.g. in addition, because, however.

Scan – Read quickly to find:

• Specific information

• Particular knowledge about the content.

Look for key words, phrases or names. Look for capital letters and numbers. Move your eyes systematically over the page.

Understanding what you read – Active reading 

As an active reader you should:

• think about how what you are reading fits in with what you already know about the topic

• have a purpose in mind when you read. By being an active reader, you can make good choices about what you read and how you read.

Dealing with unfamiliar words and concepts

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Often the journal articles you read are written for professionals and experts in the field. If you find it difficult to process the information, it can be helpful to:

• use general text books that introduce the ideas for students and build up your background knowledge

• identify new and important terminology in the introduction or abstracts of what you read. These very key words can be important to understand before continuing with your reading.

• try to focus on general understanding, that is, whole ideas not single words.

Dealing with new terminology

University study will increase your vocabulary. While a dictionary can help to deal with the new terminology and vocabulary you encounter in your reading, it is often more useful to start with contextual clues, that is, the words or situation around the unfamiliar word that can help you work out the meaning. Look for the following:

• Restatement of ideas – restates or explains the meaning of new or key words. Look for these words: or, in other words, that is (i.e.), such as.

• Examples – explains the meaning by giving examples. Look for the following language: such as, for example, for instance, including.

• Comparison – complex words are often compared to more familiar or standard vocabulary: like, as, as if.


• Pre-reading strategies are effective tools that help ensure useful outcomes from your reading – don’t waste time reading material that isn’t useful or relevant.

• Active reading techniques enhance cognition and learning.

• Diagrams, flow charts and mind maps can be a useful way to organise information.

• Reading actively increases understanding by connecting what you are reading with what you already know and what you need to find out.

Thanks to source:

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What is critical reading? 

Critical reading involves developing a deep understanding of the content of a text as well as how the subject matter is developed. It involve analysing the text to identify the main ideas and perspectives, but it also interprets and evaluates the text. You can read a text on at least four different levels:

Comprehension: Read to find out what the text says.

• Ask yourself: what are the main ideas of the text?

Analysis: Read to see what the text does.

• Ask yourself: how is the information used, how is it structured, how is it trying to persuade you?

Interpretation: Read to find out what the text means in a broader context.

• Ask yourself: what is the deeper meaning of the text? What are its implications?

Evaluation: Judge the text’s strengths and weaknesses. Judge whether the text is important in terms of its contribution to the field.

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Comprehension, analysis, interpretation and evaluation are illustrated in the below abstract.


The discovery of antibiotics was contributed to by two scientists: Alexander Fleming and Howard Florey. Prior to 1942 patients in hospitals were dying from sepsis after amputations or from other invasive procedures. Women died in large numbers from infections caused by childbirth, and there was no great effort being made to find some form of antibacterial agent. In 1930, the microbiologist Fleming, who was studying micro-organisms and their growth patterns, wrote up his observations of the effect of bacteria on an organism for a small medical journal in London commenting that this might be worth further investigation; however, it wasn’t followed up for 10 years. During the Second World War, men injured in battle were dying from sepsis in wounds. An Australian, Florey, who was working at Oxford University, was given the job as part of a PhD to try and find some bacterial agent. He came across the article written by Fleming and decided to follow it up. He managed to isolate enough penicillin from the penicillium fungus to treat one patient. America put money into this research and Florey and his assistant started to produce penicillin on a mass scale. There was enough produced in 1942 and 1943 to treat most of the allied soldiers, sailors and airmen that were being injured.


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Critical analysis

1. Florey, building on the work of Fleming, managed to isolate penicillin during the Second World War. (Comprehension: This presents the same topic as the original. It restates the information.)

2. The passage compares the contributions made by two scientists to the development of a life-saving anti-bacterial agent. (Analysis: This discusses the way the material is presented and structured, showing deeper insight.)

3. The high numbers of soldiers dying of wound infection in the Second World War was the possible catalyst for the invention of penicillin. (Interpretation: This attempts to find a deeper meaning, interpreting the overall meaning of the passage.)

4. The article provides a good basic summary of the history of penicillin, but it ignores the vital work done by Moyer, which allowed large quantities of the drug to be produced.) (Evaluation: This judges the text in terms of strengths and weaknesses.)

Critical reading process 

1. What is the writer’s argument? What is the main claim?           ARGUMENT

2. What are the main points/ideas that support that argument? Does the writer attempt to address the stated point of view? Is it successful?                            SUPPORT

3. What kinds of evidence does the author present to support these points (quality and quantity)? Consider: is the evidence provided relevant, reliable and current? Where does it come from?                  EVIDENCE

4. Are the main points directly and logically linked to the argument? Look for examples of how they are linked. Look for examples or information that is not relevant or explained well.               LOGIC

5. Are there assumptions/perspectives that underpin the evidence presented? What are they? Are these assumptions clearly stated?                            ASSUMPTIONS

6. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this text? Does it make an important contribution to the field?   EVALUATION

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In order to read critically, you must be an active reader.

Asking questions as you read forms the basis of critical reading skills. Questions like those listed below help you to maintain your focus while reading and to think about the deeper implications of the text.


• Have a pen or pencil with you as you read to note down strategies and processes that the writer uses as well as noting your own ideas and reactions to the reading.

• Add short observations or summaries along the margins of a text. ‘Post-It’ notes and other coloured labels can assist in your note taking from a text.

Thanks to source:

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How to read a book for a maximum learning