Active Reading

Start by getting familiar with the basic parts and structure of the text:

  • What kind of text are you reading? An essay? A web site?
  • Every author has a purpose; find it.
  • Who is the audience and how does the author try to appeal to them?
  • What argument is the author making/question does the text try to answer?
  • What evidence does the author provide?
  • Are there any key terms the author defines?

As you’re reading, make note of anything that especially catches your attention:

  • Is there a fact or point that challenged your assumptions?
  • Any surprises?
  • Did the author make a point or argument that you disagree with?
  • Are there any inconsistencies in the text?
  • Does the text contain anything (words, phrases, ideas) that you don’t understand?

After you’ve finished reading, read it again:

  • Are there things you didn’t notice the first time reading the text?
  • Does the text leave some questions open-ended?
  • Imagine the author is sitting across from you: what would you ask them about the text? Why?

If the text is visual in nature, try these extra tips:

  • What first strikes you about the image?
  • Who/what is the main subject of the visual?
  • What colors/textures dominate the visual?
  • What objects/people are in the background/foreground?
  • Do words or numbers play any role in the visual?
  • When was the visual created?


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About Writing: A Guide Copyright © 2015 by Robin Jeffrey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.