What are the useful reading stategies for both electronic and paper reading?

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While many readers have a strong preference for paper or electronic media when reading, the strategies you can employ are essentially the same in both cases. To read is to interpret symbols. Marks on a page or screen form words, and these words convey ideas. This act of interpretation is an active process, not a passive one. This point is often misunderstood. When you are reading a story or novel by your favorite writer, the process may appear to be effortless. This is because you are engaged by the text. You are thinking about it and participating imaginatively. If someone were to ask you what is going on, or to describe the characters or setting, you would be able to give a detailed response.

The aim of active reading in an academic context is both to replicate this experience and make it more permanent. To allow your eyes to pass over the text may replicate the physical act of reading your favorite writer's works, but you are not mentally engaged in the same way. To create this mental engagement, you need to question the text as you read it. Look for topic sentences to locate the main idea in each paragraph. Imagine that you have to explain the text to someone as you are reading. What is the writer saying? How does she or he support the argument? Do you agree?

These questions lead to the key skill of summarizing. After each paragraph, make a quick note of the main point. When you have read a few pages, again imagine that someone has asked you to explain what they are about. See whether you can do so in about a minute. If you have difficulty with any part of the explanation, return to that paragraph again to clarify. Repeat this exercise at the end of the text. Try to summarize it in a short paragraph. Then decide what you think about it.

Although what you have done seems like a different exercise from reading for pleasure, you have actually replicated the mental processes that occurs naturally when you are engaged by the text. Putting these processes into clear words and making written notes should help to fix the ideas in your head, and you can always use the notes to revise if you should forget the principal points made in the text.

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