Active reading and comprehension
To fully comprehend your academic readings at university, you will need to:
- Recognize different genres or types of writing (e.g., persuasive or argument essay, fiction, rhetorical analysis, review, criticism, news article). Genres center on audience and purpose. (More information: Purdue University‘s OWL Writing Lab.)
- Understand and use different types of thinking (e.g., deductive, analytical, critical). For more information, see some of our tools: Levels of Thinking, Levels of Questions, and Critical Reading Checklist.
- Have an advanced level of English: both syntax (rules) & semantics (meaning). For more information, refer to writer’s handbooks, English grammar books, dictionaries, and thesauruses. There are also a great deal of resources from SASS’s Writing Centre.
- Read actively! (See below.)
Active reading helps; passive reading hinders
- Have you ever noticed yourself drifting off while you‘re reading?
- Have you ever found that you’ve finished a reading passage but can’t remember much or any of what you’ve read?
- Does reading feel boring? Exhausting? A waste of time?
If you answered yes to any of the above, it’s possible you are a passive reader!
What is ACTIVE reading?
When you read actively, you are in control of the INPUT of information. When you read actively, you are engaged in a PROCESS of discovery. Reading becomes a quest to find the answer to questions you have posed prior to reading rather than waiting passively for the words to wash over you. This engagement allows you to stay alert and interested. Questioning engages the brain, puts it into gear, meaning you are more likely to think and learn and less likely to drift off or get bored.
Students who might otherwise read actively can fall victim to passive reading when faced with their course readings. These students feel that academic reading is more difficult and, therefore, requires a more laborious process. However, this is not the case. Due to its demands for higher order thinking skills, academic reading encourages students to take control of the reading process.