Frequently Asked Questions
How do I improve student reading?
Many students are not skilled at reading scholarly texts. They may need guidelines for how to do this kind of reading.
Scholarly writing is rhetorical, written by writers for a specific purpose and audience. Scholarly writing also tends to follow certain patterns of form specific to the discipline or sub-discipline. When students look for these patterns, they will find it easier to find key information.
Getting an overview:
1. Look at the title. Look at the introduction, particularly the end of the introduction, which usually states the author's purpose. Look at the conclusion to find the main point. Look at the headings to see the organization and sequence of ideas. Skim the introduction, conclusion, and the first and last paragraph of each major section to get an overview.
2. Look for the key information.
What question or problem is the author addressing? (introduction)
What conclusions does the author come to? (conclusion)
What methods, reasoning, evidence is emphasized? (body)
Understanding and remembering what you read.
Scholarly writing is not transparent. Nor is it written for undergraduate readers. Students need to work to understand and remember what they read.
1. When something does not make sense, see where it is in the overall organization of the article (based on your overview). Sometimes it is better to keep reading; the next section may help a naive reader make sense of the previous one.
2. Write as you read. Writing helps you read actively with the goal of making sense of the text. Mark up the text (if it's not a library book!). Underline key ideas. Place checks in the margins for sections you may want to re-read. Make comments in the margin, such as questions of the author or connections to your course.
3. Write a brief summary of the main ideas in your own words. This step will help you clarify your own understanding of the reading and will also help you remember. It should include the information listed in the section on key information above as well as anything else you consider relevant.