Reading Strategies

Created by Kian Ravaei, Jen Pierre, Shannon Roux, Juan Díaz, Jeannie Chen, April Zhou, Emily, Sophia Wu

The way you read will vary depending on what you are reading and what you need to get out of the reading! This resource provides a bank of quick and practical reading strategies that can help you build your own reading strategies toolbox.

Pick one or two of the reading strategies below and try them out on your next reading assignment! Notice the strengths of the reading strategies and in what contexts they works best for you. You can always return here to try out a new reading strategy when your needs change later on!

Plan Your Reading Session

Planning your reading session can improve your reading efficiency by preventing distraction and burnout.

  • Gauge the quantity of reading and the time you have to read it.
  • Be honest with yourself about how long your attention span is and how interested you are in the text.
  • Schedule breaks or give yourself rewards every few pages or minutes during long reading sessions.
  • Find a suitable reading environment. You can reserve study rooms here in the library or residential halls.

Turn Headings Into Questions

This strategy will ensure that you acquire relevant knowledge as you read a textbook or journal article.

  • Restate section headings as questions. For example, a section heading titled, “Youth Social Media Use” could be turned into, “How do youth in different communities use social media?
  • As you read and take notes, keep your question in mind. Write down information that answers the question.
  • In the end, you should be able to summarize the answer to your question.
  • You may need to revise your question if the content doesn't match up.

Paraphrase as You Read

Summarizing content in your own words ensures that you have understood the text and helps you remember what you’ve read.

  • Whenever you encounter an important concept, paraphrase it in your notes or outline.
  • Avoid summarizing using the exact words in the text, taking notes verbatim is not nearly as effective as writing in your own words.
  • A few words or a sentence will suffice for each summary.

Take Relevant Notes

Taking notes that are tailored to your assignment will save you time and effort.

  • Ask yourself, “How will I be asked to demonstrate my knowledge of the text?”
  • If the answer is a multiple-choice exam, make sure you’re keeping track of important terms and facts.
  • If the answer is an essay, look out for useful quotes or themes.
  • If you are expected to discuss the text in section, take down some of your questions and thoughts on the text.
  • Structure your notes so that you will be able to access the important information when the time comes to demonstrate your knowledge.

Make an Annotation Legend

Creating a key of symbols for annotating can help you make meaningful annotations that you can reference in the future.

  • For example, a star might denote a main idea. Or a square might denote a connection to another text.
  • Your key of symbols will vary from text to text, depending on what you are looking for!
  • Avoid just highlighting or underlining— instead, make annotations that demonstrate and advance your understanding of the text.

Vary Your Speed for What You Need

Figuring out what information you need from a reading is an important first step! It can help you know when to speed up and when to slow down and dive deeper into the reading.

  • Slow down your reading when you encounter unfamiliar ideas or new information that seems particularly relevant to your class or research context.
  • Increase speed when you encounter ideas that you are familiar with or that don’t pertain to your research context or class.
  • You can use key phrases to identify when to change your speed. For example, if you already understand the concept, you can speed up when you see the phrase “for example.” But you might want to slow down when you see something like “Conversely” which indicates a shift or new perspective.

Prioritize New Vocabulary

Dealing with unfamiliar words appropriately will aid your comprehension of the text and boost your vocabulary.

  • Differentiate between words to look up right now, words to look up later, and words that are not crucial to understanding the course material.
  • If you cannot move forward in the text without understanding the meaning of a certain word, look it up now.
  • If a word is frequently repeated within a text, but you can still understand the text from context clues, it’s probably worth looking up later. Circle it and come back later.
  • Words that are only used once and don’t crucially impact your understanding of the text don’t need to be addressed right away. Don't let them distract you from the broader meaning of the text.
  • Develop a system for making your vocabulary easily accessible, like a circle that means "look up later."

Identifying Uncertainties

Designate a symbol, highlighter color, or other marker that you can use to make note of bits of text that you don’t understand or want more clarification on.

  • Make note of what you don’t understand… Then try to move on!
  • Don’t get bogged down by uncertainties—this can hinder your ability to comprehend the text as a whole.
  • It’s possible your question gets answered later on in the text! But if not, consider visiting your professor or TA to resolve your questions that you cannot answer using the text.

About this tutorial
Authors

Kian Ravaei, Jen Pierre, Shannon Roux, Juan Díaz, Jeannie Chen, April Zhou, Emily, Sophia Wu

Contributors

Doug Worsham, UCLA Powell Library

Learning Outcomes
  • Identify Various Reading Strategies (e.g. paraphrase as you read, make an annotation legend, prioritize new vocabulary, etc.)