You spend hours reading an article, and you come away feeling like you hardly learned anything. Sound familiar?

Even if you're an avid reader, reading something academic can often feel like you're just staring at a wall of text.

A brick wall symbolizing a wall of text. Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

If you use effective reading strategies, you can make reading articles from Google Scholar seem as easy as reading social media.

The trick is to break reading down into three steps: before, during, and after.

Before: Predicting

Predicting is a reading strategy you use before you start reading. The goal is to use what you already know about a topic to help you understand what you learn.

Compare watching a new Batman movie when you've seen the trailer and when you haven't. You probably have a better idea of who the villain is if you've seen the trailer, right? The trailer helps you make predictions about the movie.

Making predictions for reading is the same idea.

Batman stands ready to fight in an underground room. Photo by Serge Kutuzov on Unsplash

To make predictions about an academic text:

  1. Read the title

  2. Skim the first few paragraphs

  3. Skim the last paragraph

  4. Write down 3-4 ideas about what the text might be about

Don't worry about being wrong. The goal of this reading strategy isn't to guess correctly, it's just to help you think critically about the text and to help you get ready to read it.


Predict what the rest of this Byte is about. What should you do?

During: Annotating

Annotating is a reading strategy where you write on a text while reading it. It helps you stay focused, identify important info, and review the text when you're finished reading.

A student holding a book and highlighters. Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

While annotating:

  • Highlight keywords

  • Paraphrase important information in the margins or on a separate sheet of paper

  • Draw arrows to connect ideas

  • Write questions to yourself about the material

Look at this academic abstract — the word "quality" comes up a lot. It would be a good idea to highlight that word, draw lines between where it's used, and write some notes about it to help you understand the technical term "LQH".

After: Summarizing

Summarizing is a reading strategy you can do after you finish reading. It might sound weird to call this a reading strategy because you'll be writing, not reading, but it solidifies what you learned while reading.

Identify 3-5 main points from the text you've just read. This will be easier if you've been annotating along the way.

The final product isn't as important as the fact that writing the summary helps you better understand what you've read — just like how talking about a movie with a friend after you've watched it makes it easier to remember the details of the movie.

A film projector in a dark room. Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

Take Action

Go find a difficult academic article and try these reading strategies! That brick wall will suddenly look a lot clearer.

A clear round window looking out at the sea and a city skyline. Photo by priscila rojas on Unsplash


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