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Reasons to come to the Center for Reading and Writing:

  • To work one-on-one to improve understanding and comprehension of course readings
  • To learn how to annotate and outline
  • To learn how to do a close reading

Reading requirements in college are demanding. Students are expected to read hundreds of pages of text for a variety of classes, each with the assumption that the student is able to synthesize, analyze, and incorporate new learning into the course.  The Center for Reading and Writing provides guidance and strategies to help students accomplish these goals in all disciplines.

Our consultants will work one-on-one or in small groups with students helping them to navigate the demands of college level reading. Comprehension and understanding of a text increase when the reader is aware of the strategies that he or she uses, as well as when a discussion is held with peers.  Therefore, coming to the Center for a reading session is a great way to enhance and improve academic performance.

Chardin Philosophe Lisant Smaller

Correct Assumptions about College Reading

  • Reading is an ACTIVE pursuit, not passive.
  • Texts should be read more than once.
  • Annotating and/or note taking while reading are imperative.
  • Thinking critically about the text means engaging in a conversation with the author, asking questions, and making connections to other readings, theories, and ideas.
  • Depending upon your purpose, texts should be read at varying rates and depths.

Watch this video to find out five strategies to improve your reading:

College Reading in Five

The Reading Process

Reading is a process that must be considered and executed with care and focus.  Understanding of content and nuances of text are not achieved by a single reading.  Texts are meant to be read multiple times, employing different strategies which are determined by the stage of reading you are in.  The stages are pre-reading, reading, re-reading, and post reading.  The Center provides support for each of these stages in the reading process.

During each of these stages, the issue of flexibility and rate are extremely important.  The best readers are flexible and know when and how to vary their rate according to the demands of the text and the expectations of the reader.  For example, a chemistry textbook should be read differently than a newspaper article.

Review these two documents for further information regarding flexibility and rate as well as suggestions for how to modify yours while reading.

6 Reading Myths

Vary Your Reading Rate



Before you read, familiarize yourself with the text.

  • Survey the material to get a feel for the text and to determine ahead of time why you are reading, what you already know about the topic, and how it should be read.
  • Notice the title and date of publication.
  • Investigate the introduction and conclusion and any questions that follow.
  • Define your expectations of the material.
  • Identify assumptions, interests and knowledge about the text and author.

Before you read, ask questions about the text.

  • What is your purpose for reading?  What do you hope to get out of the text?
  • Use the journalist’s questions (who, what, when, where, how and why) to begin a method of inquiry which will continue while you read.
  • Keep all of these questions in mind and look for the answers while you read.


Reading Actively:
While you read, maintain an active engagement with the text.

  • Think about the text as you read.
  • Have an internal dialogue with the author.
  • Visualize what the writer is saying.
  • Try to uncover the central and secondary ideas. Ask yourself, what is the writer saying? What does the author want me to know? What am I learning about? How does this relate to my own observations and experiences?
  • Make connections to other theories and ideas discussed in class.
  • Try to paraphrase or retell what you are reading.
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion.
  • Reread confusing parts; most texts benefit from a second and sometimes third reading.

For more information and resources about reading actively, click on this link:


The importance of annotating while reading cannot be emphasized enough. The physical act of writing while reading enables the reader to immediately engage with the text more actively.

To annotate literally means to make marks.  While reading, mark up the text with your thoughts.  For suggestions on how to annotate and examples of annotated texts, see the links below.

Annotating a Text  (How To) PDF

Sample Annotations PDF


After you read, stop and think before moving on.

  • Analyze and evaluate what you have read and support your judgments with references to the text.
  • Generate questions focusing on how and why things happened.
  • Form connections to the content by incorporating information from class lectures, other texts, personal experiences,  proven observations, and world knowledge.
  • Reread and create a more thoughtful interpretation and synthesis of the author’s ideas to build, change, or revise your understanding of the material.

After you read, determine your understanding of the text.

  • Are you able to summarize what you read and rehearse what you learned?
  • Review your annotations and revisit the questions you created before you read. Write the answers.
  • Formulate extended questions about the text.
  • Rehearse what you have learned through self-talk, graphic organizers, peer discussions and/or study groups.
  • Determine what you may not understand and ask your instructor or classmates to clarify information.
  • Extend your knowledge by visiting websites, locating additional sources, creating study guides, and asking new questions.

Levels of Reading

As previously mentioned, reading well requires flexibility.  It also requires the understanding that different types of texts and assignments require varying levels of reading.  These range from literal interpretation to critical analysis of a text.  The level and depth at which you read depends upon your purpose and goal as a reader.  All reading requires metacognition, an awareness of your thinking and ability to monitor comprehension while reading.

Click here for some thoughts on reading well from Villanova University:

Metacognitive Reading

  • Think about how and why you read
  • Continually assess your own thinking and understanding while reading
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the influence of dialect and context
  • Engage in continual, systematic reflection of the content and its influence on your understanding of course content and the world around you

Literal Reading  

  • Identify topic
  • Determine overall meaning
  • Locate major details and the minor details that support them
  • Summarize central idea and major support

Analytical Reading and Critical Thinking 

  • Read against the work:  Ask questions which debate meaning and contest author’s ideas
  • Interact with text and respond to meaning
  • Examine specific ideas or parts of text (intra-textual context); address the value of ideas
  • Relate one part of text to the whole giving it meaning (extra-textual context)
  • Show how ideas are related; investigate the wording and references made to other parts of same text
  • Look for redundancies, assumptions, contradictions, inconsistencies, accentuations, nuances
  • Ask questions about relevance and significance of information
  • Distinguish fact from opinion; question omissions and fallacies
  • Analyze author’s tone; contemplate values, experiences  and attitudes of author
  • Recognize rhetorical modes and their purpose (organizational patterns)
  • Uncover contextual significance (authorial, philosophical, subjective, historical, sociological, political, economic)
  • Think about the broader implications (cultural, historical, conflict, change)
  • Evaluate sources of information; decipher relevant from irrelevant information
  • Analyze your own attitudes, biases, and interests
  • Question how and why things happen and what is left unanswered
  • Discuss actions to take, challenges, implications, changes
  • Make comparisons and examine perspectives
  • Explore issues in greater detail
  • Recognize and consider evidence
  • Explore logic, rationale, emotion, morality, ethics, authority, social, economic, political or other circumstances of influence

Synoptical Reading (introduced by Mortimer Alder)

  • Connect text to other texts (Inter-textual) and show how they relate to one another
  • Consider multiple perspectives on the same subject matter
  • Observe data from various sources
  • Link text to world, text to text, text to self
  • Combine texts and evidence
  • Question sources and ideas

These reading components are interconnected, and conducting a close reading includes all or a combination of these components. To actively engage in the text, plan enough time to pre-read, read, re-read and post- read.  Engaging in reading, responding to reading, and composing an essay based on what you have read require commitment to the higher levels of the reading spectrum.

Responding to Reading

Responding to Assigned Non-Fiction Reading
After you have completed your reading assignments, you will be asked to respond in several ways. You may have to complete a reading log, journal entry, response essay, or thesis paper, participate in class discussions, reading groups, oral presentations, or you may have an exam. Whatever your responsibility, you should be organized and equipped to tackle the task.

Using an active reading process before, during and after reading as outlined in the previous sections, will best prepare you for any type of response required.

Remember to annotate and take notes on the reading material.  This will enable you to easily recall information, find evidence to support your thinking, and be completely prepared for whatever form of response is expected of you.

As you read, keep these aspects of critical reading in mind:

Distinguishing Between Fact and Opinion:
College students will be called upon to respond to information that is based on facts and opinions. As you read, ask questions about the validity of an author’s ideas. A fact is something that exists or has existed in the past and can be verified. Facts are objective because they are not influenced by personal feelings. On the other hand, an opinion is based on internal bias. Opinions are subjective because they depend on the author’s personal beliefs, feelings or values. They would not exist without human emotion.

Types of Supporting Evidence:
Authors use several types of evidence to support their claims and techniques to convince readers that what they say is true. Some evidence is more credible and relevant than others. Being able to spot supporting evidence and its reliability will help you understand, interpret, analyze, evaluate and  think critically about the text. During the reading process, evaluate the type of evidence used by the author.

  • Expert Authority
  • Facts
  • Statistics
  • Research
  • Examples
  • Experiences and Observations
  • Opinions

An Author’s Assumptions:
When the author assumes something about his or her audience or when the author acknowledges an idea as fact and does not support or defend it, readers must question the validity and subjectivity of that information. Recognizing the author’s assumptions help to determine the author’s beliefs, values and biases.

Try to recognize intra-textual patterns of inductive or deductive reasoning:
During the reading process, ask yourself, “Does the author move from a general idea to a more specific idea or does the author move from a specific idea to a general conclusion?”  Deductive reasoning communicates a general principle or widely accepted claim and is usually supported with evidence based on references to that principle or claim. Note as the essay concludes, the author expresses implications of his or her original idea.  Inductive reasoning begins with a specific observation, experience or data and seeks to explain it by arriving at a general principle.

Kinds of Questions which Require Critical Thinking:
To whom does the author speak? What is the implied argument? Tone? Purpose?
How does the author reach his or her conclusion?
How does this passage anticipate what is to come? How does it relate to what came before?
Why do you think the author takes the position he or she does?
What broader implications are there if the reader accepts the argument? Why? How should your actions or thinking change as a result?
How does this piece compare to other works?
Does it allude to any specific historical events or circumstances?
Why has the author omitted specific information? What questions are still left unanswered?

Reading in the Disciplines

College students should be engaged and active readers in all of their content area subjects. To read for the disciplines, students should use the same active reading stages previously mentioned.

Annotating and note taking are of upmost importance.  Highlighting is helpful, however, making a note as to WHY that section is highlighted helps to reinforce the content and allows the reader to remember why that information is important.

Helpful reading and note taking strategies are below:


Cornell Note Taking

Study Skills and Time Management

Finding and staying with study habits that work best for you as a learner are an essential part of college success.

The Center provides one-on-one consulting, valuable resources and hands-on workshops for students who want to enrich their learning experiences, revise their study techniques, and achieve their academic potential.  Investigate the links below to refresh your memory regarding familiar study and time management habits, or find new methods that will enhance and improve the skills you already have.

Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth College
Check out this easily accessible website equipped with handouts to help you learn powerful study skills and reading strategies, impressive behaviors for note-taking, listening and class participation, fresh ideas for improving concentration, tips for studying in math, the sciences, and foreign language, as well as pointers on time-management, preparation and studying for exams.

Understanding Academic Assignments
College professors have specific learning objectives in mind when they plan their reading and writing assignments. For this reason, your first step in executing any assignment is to understand and interpret it. Follow the link below to “Understanding Assignments.”

VIDEOS:  Learning Strategies for College Reading, Studying, Organizing, Note-taking and Listening
Watch these videos to enhance your academic performance.

Study Guides and Strategies
This is a quick and easy website with pages of strategies, methods and information on study skills covering “250 topics and 100 exercises in 37 languages.”

Study Skills Resources at Cornell University Learning Strategies Center
Follow this link for resources and videos on topics such as: “The Key to a Good Semester – The Big Picture,” tips on time management, reading and learning from lecture, and studying and taking exams.  Also included is the widely practiced Cornell Note-taking system.

Study Strategies Handouts
Here you can access additional handouts for support with time management and productivity, studying for and taking tests, learning from lectures and reading, tools for planning your time, and information regarding skills specific to college.

Worthwhile Websites for College Readers

Active Reading: Comprehension and Rate
College students are faced with a variety of reading assignments from a variety of courses. The challenge is completing the reading both meaningfully and at the right pace. Dartmouth provides ways for students to read efficiently and actively.

Reading in the Majors
Content area reading assignments vary from subject to subject, so students should tailor their methods to meet a specific discipline or course of study. The University of Hartford offers “Cheat Sheets for Reading in the Majors” which is helpful for both content area reading and writing.

Critical Reading:
Check out these handouts and worksheets from SUNY Empire State College to help students with critical reading. You will find strategies for before, during and after you read. Topics include: taking notes from text, performing a close reading, writing a summary, interpreting, responding to and evaluating what you’ve read. You will find a link for reading literature.

Critical and Analytical Reading
Based on theory from Virgina Commonwealth University, “This is the level of reading which usually takes a particular issue or thesis and explores that in detail, supporting profusely from the text.” You will find ways to question, analyze and think about text.

Reading to Write
As a college student, you will be expected to read and respond to several passages, essays, articles, chapters, short stories, poems and novels. Response writing involves thinking critically and analytically about the text. At the University of North Carolina website, you will find helpful “Reading to Write” handouts.

Critical Reading of an Essay’s Argument
One professor presents his definition of critical reading, offers strategies for reading critically and discusses five stages of reading: pre-, interpretive, critical, synoptic and post-reading.

Poetry: Close Reading
At least one of your English Professors will ask you to interpret a poem. You will learn poetry terms, about the importance of repetition and how to decipher meaning. Pursue the website below from Purdue University to learn how to do a close reading of poetry.

Evaluating Print Sources
Without a doubt, you will be asked to read and evaluate sources such as scholarly journals, peer-reviewed articles and argumentative essays. For more information on how to evaluate print sources and how to distinguish primary from secondary sources, click on the University of North Carolina link below.