This article will provide you with an understanding of the different reading techniques for college students and some reading strategies. Reading and consuming information is increasingly important today because of the amount of information we encounter.

Not only do we need to read critically, but we also need to read with an eye to distinguish fact from opinion and identify credible sources Moreover, reading helps college students develop higher levels of focus and concentration.

In academic settings, we deliberately work to become stronger readers. Take advantage of all the study aids you have at hand, including human, electronic, and physical resources, to increase your performance.

Reading Techniques For College Students

There are generally five Reading Techniques which include: 1) pre-reading, 2) skimming, 3) scanning, 4) detailed reading, and 5) critical reading

This is a preliminary reading technique. During the pre-reading stage, you can easily pick up on information from the cover and the front matter that may help you understand the material you’re reading more fully or place it in context with other important works in the discipline. Look for an author’s biography or note from the author.

To identify the topics covered and how the information fits into the subject, look for headings in larger and bold font, summary lists, and important quotations throughout the textbook chapter. Use these features as you read to help you determine what are the most important ideas.

Sometimes you can find a list of other books the author has written near the front of a book. Do you recognise any of the other titles? Can you do an internet search for the name of the book or author? Beyond a standard internet search, try the library’s database. These are more relevant to academic disciplines and contain resources you typically will not find in a standard search engine. If you are unfamiliar with how to use the library database, ask a librarian.

Skimming is not just glancing over the words on a page or screen. Effective skimming allows you to take in the major points of a passage to determine the usefulness of the source. If the source is useful, you will then need to engage in a deeper level of active reading, but skimming is the first step—not an alternative to detailed reading.

The skimming reading technique for college students is useful as it gives them a brief overview before reading in more detail and assists with comprehension. Instead of reading every word, skimming involves spending a brief amount of time per page, quickly looking at:

  • the contents
  • the headings and sub-headings
  • the abstract or introductory paragraph
  • the conclusion
  • any diagrams or graphics you think are important

End your skimming session with writing a few notes or terms to look up, questions you still have, and an overall summary. Recognise that you likely will return to that book or article for a more thorough reading if the material is useful.

Scanning is one of the most common reading techniques for college students that involves reading a text with a specific purpose in mind. Rather than reading every section, scanning involves quickly looking for relevant information only. Use this technique when you are reading to find specific material or data related to an assignment topic or to find answers for questions (e.g. for tutorial activities).

Detailed reading:
This reading technique for college students evolves around focusing on the written material, really looking to gather specific information or evidence on a topic. This type of reading technique will provide you with a more in-depth understanding of the specific information, facts, positions and views on a topic. In detailed reading, you may be looking for new information or a different perspective.

Is this writer claiming a radical new definition for the topic or an entirely opposite way to consider the subject matter, connecting it to other topics or disciplines in ways you have never considered? Also, try to consider all the possible perspectives of a subject as well as the potential for misunderstanding due to personal biases and the availability of false information about the topic.

Critical reading:
Critical reading techniques for college students is one that requires you to actively engage with the written material by questioning and evaluating the quality and relevance of the information for your task. This may include analysing the author’s strategies, methods and reasoning.

Critical reading is a vital skill to develop to help you become a better analytical thinker and writer. The following are some questions to consider when reading critically.

  • Are there any contradictions?
  • Is an argument developed?
  • Is it logical?
  • Is the text biased?
  • Is there supporting evidence and how valid is it?
  • Are there any ‘hidden’ assumptions?
  • Is there an alternative conclusion given?
  • What alternative perspectives are available in the wider literature?

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