One fact about reading comprehension or university courses is that you may end up doing more re-reading. It may be the same content, but you may need to read the passage more than once to detect the emphasis the writer places on one aspect of the topic or how frequently the writer dismisses a significant counterargument. This re-reading is called recursive reading.

When reading comprehension, you are trying to make sense of the text for a specific purpose. You should consider what the writer of the piece may not be including and why. This is why reading for comprehension is recursive. Specifically, try to see reading as a process that is far more circular than linear.

For example, you’ll need to go back and re-read passages to determine the meaning and make connections between the reading and your discipline or context. This recursive reading strategy builds on the ‘Reading Techniques For College Students’ that we explored previously.

Rereading Comprehension Strategy

Accessing Prior Knowledge:
When you read, you naturally think of anything else you may know about the topic, but when you read deliberately and actively, you make yourself more aware of accessing this prior knowledge. Have you ever watched a documentary about this topic? Did you study some aspect of it in another class? All of this thinking will help you make sense of what you are reading.

Asking questions:
Humans are naturally curious beings. As you read actively, you should be asking questions about the topic you are reading. Don’t just say the questions in your mind; write them down. You may ask: Why is this topic, subject, character important? What is the relevance of this topic currently? Was this topic important a long time ago but irrelevant now? Why did my lecturer assign this reading?

Inferring and implying:
When you read, you can take the information on the page and infer, or conclude responses to related challenges from evidence or from your own reasoning. A student will likely be able to infer what material the lecturer will include on an exam by taking good notes throughout the classes leading up to the test.

Writers may imply information without directly stating a fact. You have to read carefully to find implications because they are indirect, but watching for them will help you comprehend the whole meaning of a passage.

Learning vocabulary:
Vocabulary specific to certain disciplines helps practitioners in that field engage and communicate with each other. As a potential professional in the field you’re studying, you need to know the lingo. You may already have a system in place to learn discipline-specific vocabulary, so use what you know works for you.

Two strong strategies are to look up words in a dictionary (online or hard copy) to ensure you have the exact meaning for your discipline and to keep a dedicated list (glossary) of words you see often in your reading. You can list the words with a short definition so you have a quick reference guide to help you learn the vocabulary.

When you evaluate a text, you are seeking to understand the presented topic in detail in order to engage with it. If you plan to make time for reading while you commute, remember that unexpected events like delays and cancellations could impact your concentration.

Depending on how long the text is, you will perform a number of steps and repeat many of these steps to evaluate all the elements the author presents. When you critically evaluate a text, you need to do the following:

  • Scan the title and all headings
  • Read through the entire passage fully
  • Question what main point the author is making
  • Decide who the audience is
  • Identify what evidence/support the author uses and is the evidence valid?
  • Consider if the author presents a balanced perspective on the main point
  • Recognise if the author introduced any biases,
    contradictions or assumptions in the text

Allow Time For Reading:
You should determine the reading requirements and expectations for every class early in the semester. You also need to understand why you are reading the particular text you are assigned. Do you need to read closely for minute details that determine cause and effect? Or is your lecturer asking you to skim several sources so you become more familiar with the topic?

Knowing this reasoning will help you decide your timing, what notes to take, and how best to undertake the reading assignment. Depending on your schedule, you may need to read both primary sources and secondary sources. You may also need to read current journalistic texts to stay current in local or global affairs.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, schedule reading time when creating your weekly study timetable to allow you to time read and review. You can make time for reading in a number of ways that include scheduling active reading sessions and practising recursive reading strategies.

Reading is one of the most important skills you need for studying at university. The strategies that have been explored in this article will help you to get the most out of your reading time.

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