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Reading Resources


Center for Reading and Writing

Peter P. Mercer Learning Commons | Room 420 (4th floor)

p: 201-684-7557 | Summer: 201-684-7561


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.

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.

Six 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.
  • Continue asking questions as you read.  Question the author and his credibility. Question yourself and your understanding of the text.  Question how this new information fits into and perhaps challenges previously held beliefs and understanding.

For more information and resources about reading actively, visit: Active Reading


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.
Reading Strategies

Reading well requires using multiple strategies throughout various stages of the reading process.

Take the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Inventory (MARSI) to assess your strategy use.


Now that you know what strategies you use most often, be aware of how you apply them when you read.  Interact with the text by constantly checking your understanding, asking questions of the text and the author, and making connections within the text.

Apply different strategies at different stages and for different purposes.  No one strategy fits all reading situations. Develop a repertoire of strategies and use them often.  Below is a chart summarizing a few useful strategies.

Global Strategies Problem Solving Strategies Support Strategies
Set a purpose Read slowly Take notes
Activate prior knowledge Get back on track Read difficult texts aloud
Preview Adjust rate Summarize
Check the content fits the purpose Pay close attention when the text gets difficult Underline and circle important information
Use bold type, italics, etc. Stop and think Discuss
Critically analyze and evaluate Visualize Use tools such as the dictionary
Use context clues Reread Paraphrase ideas
Skim for helpful characteristics Try to figure out unknown words Self-question
Use supports, such as graphs, charts, and diagrams Go back and forth in the text to connect ideas
Make predictions
Check predictions

Read more thoughts on strategy use from Villanova University by visiting: Thoughts on Reading Well

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:  Critical Reading of an Essay’s Argument

Look over some of these helpful suggestions found on Pinterest as well!

Responding to Reading

Responding to Assigned 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.

The way in which you respond to the texts assigned for class is largely driven by the professor’s intentions.  How will the text be used? What guidelines or questions did the professor give you prior to handing out the assignment?

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.

Here is a quick Tip Sheet for responding to readings.

Reading in the Disciplines

College students should be engaged and active readers in all of their content area subjects. To read in the disciplines, students should use the same active reading stages previously mentioned, however certain majors require slight modifications to these strategies.

Annotating and note taking are of utmost 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 particular information is important.

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.

Take a minute to read this article regarding why simply rereading is NOT the best strategy when preparing for tests:

Rethinking Rereading

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.
Reading Techniques

Note Taking

Improving Sleep

Time Management

Study and Success Strategies from the Berkeley Student Learning Center at the University of California, Berkeley
Along with multiple test taking, note taking, and study skills suggestions, this website has a “Seven Day Procrastination Elimination” plan that helps students avoid the negative effects that arise as a result of procrastination.
Strategic Learning Program

Cornell Note Taking is a recommended format to assist students in organizing and processing notes.

Cornell Note Taking