Reading Strategies

It is a good idea to try out several different types of reading strategies. One reading strategy may work better for you over another based on the course requirements or academic discipline. You can modify strategies and/or combine strategies to meet your needs for a specific course. 

Write Main Ideas for Better Comprehension

Marginal Notes
Write out the main ideas of each section in the margins on each page as you read.

One Sentence Summary
After reading each section, create a one sentence summary to show you understand the information.

Thieves is a strategy for skimming if you are short on time. Read the title, headings, intro, every first sentence in each section, all visuals and vocabulary, and the end of chapter questions—find the answers if not known. Then summarize the information in your notes.

Ask Reading Questions for Better Comprehension

Authentic Questions
Monitor your reading comprehension by writing out questions of material you do not understand. Look for the answers in your text or other sources. If you still don't understand, ask your classmates and/or professor for further explanation.

QAR (question answer relationship)
Use QAR to start asking different types of questions from your reading. 

There are four types of questions you should ask yourself with this strategy.

  • Right There Questions: Literal questions whose answers can be found in the text. Often the words used in the question are the same words found in the text.
  • Think and Search Questions: Answers are gathered from several parts of the text and put together to make meaning.
  • Author and You: These questions are based on information provided in the text but you are required to relate it to your own experience. Although the answer does not lie directly in the text, you must have read it in order to answer the question.
  • On My Own: These questions do not require you to have read the passage but you must use your background or prior knowledge to answer the question.

Use Personal Reflection for Better Comprehension

KWL (know want learn)
Brainstorm what you know before you start reading. Record what you want to know after you read. List what you learned when you are done with a section or chapter.

Three Level Guide
Think about the reading on three different levels.

  • Literal Level: Understanding the literal meaning of words and ideas.
  • Interpretive Level: Understanding what the author meant and the overall message.
  • Applied Level: Understanding how the reading relates to other contexts or experiences.

Ask Questions and Reflect for Better Comprehension

SQ3R  (survey question read recite reflect)
Survey the reading by looking at the suggested learning outcomes and the overall topics of the chapter. Create questions based on the learning outcomes, key terms, headings, and sub-headings. Read for the answers to your questions. Recite the questions and the answers. Reflect on how the information relates to what you have already learned in the course.

PLAN (preview locate add note)
Preview and predict the reading content prior to reading. Locate familiar and unfamiliar terms as you read. Add new knowledge to your prior knowledge and make connections about the topic after you read. Note how the new information can be applied to everyday life.


Burkart, Gina. "Developing Active Reading Strategies". 16 Weeks to College Success. 2nd ed. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2014. 47-52. 

"Reading Educator". Accessed July 20, 2016.