The Catholic University of America

Effective Reading:

When it comes to reading effectively, there are different strategies that should be used for different types of reading. Reading in college is more than just making it from one cover to another; you have to make sure that you can retain as much important information as possible.

Textbook Reading:

Textbooks are compilations of many different works. For example, your Chemistry, World History, or Psychology textbook. Here are a few tips:

  • Preview the chapter before you start. Notice how much you have to read, and pay attention to headings, subheadings, and visual content
  • Sort the main ideas from the details
  • Mark up the chapter with a pen or highlighter to make sure you are reading actively and staying focused
  • Read aloud; it may slow you down, but it keeps you active and helps you to understand the material
  • If you don't understand a certain concept, don't hesitate to look in another textbook or outside source to further your understanding
  • Review each section in your head after you read it. Even better, write down a brief summary, focusing on one or two main points from each section
  • Stand up! Change positions periodically to combat fatigue. On particularly difficult passages, stand up and read aloud to aid concentration

Primary Source Reading:

Primary sources are specific works that textbooks often draw from. For example, Plato's Republic or Descartes's Meditations. Here are a few tips:

  • Take into account how long the assignment is that you have to read. In most cases, the shorter the assignment is, the more closely you should read.
  • For example, you should read a novel once, a short story twice, and a poem several times.
  • Read as much as you can in one sitting as long as you can stay focused. The more you read at one time, the easier it will be to pick out the significance of the reading as a whole.
  • When it comes to reading philosophical works, focus on themes, arguments, and connections; know the theme, understand the arguments, and work to find connections between themes using the different arguments.
  • Pay special attention to things that do not seem to make sense; figure out how these points fin into the theme. Notice sarcasm and irony, as well as inconsistencies and contradictions.
  • In any reading, don't leave it up to the professor or classmates to make connections within the text or connections to your own life.