When reading text for information, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you get information that you want to know. By following my wonderful tips, you will have less difficulty reading informational text and be able to learn what you need to know more efficiently.
Before you even pick up a textbook or an article, you must have a clear goal in mind why you want to read something. What information do you want to learn? By establishing a goal, you will be able to narrow down the kind of books that will help you get the information you require. After you have a definitive goal, you can begin looking through books or articles. To determine where in the book or article you should read, the table of contents at the beginning and the index at the end of are good tools for tracking down sections with certain information. If your resource does not have a table of contents or index, skim the text until you find a section you think is relevant to your goal.
Once you have found an appropriate section, you should quickly look over the text, as well as features such as titles, headlines, pictures, and bolded words before actually reading and analyzing it in order to evaluate whether the text is meeting your goals. At this point, it is not necessary to fully understand the text because you are just judging if it is relevant to what you want to learn. If the section does not satisfy your goal, you can ignore it and move on.
After you’ve skimmed through the text, you should examine what you think is important, but this time, as an active reader. An active reader, the opposite of a passive reader, is a reader that thinks about what they are reading. Active readers will visualize, ask questions, and assess the text. Titles, headlines, pictures, and bolded words are features that you should pay special attention to. Titles and headlines will let you know what to expect from the bodies that they are associated with. Pictures or diagrams will often be near text that they are related to. If the picture appears relevant to your goal, you should read the text near it.
If you are consulting a textbook, a helpful feature you should pay attention to is the review questions at the end of sections and chapters. Not only do they help ensure that you understand what you are reading, but they tell you what information is important. If questions ask for certain information, that information is worth making note of. If you follow these guidelines, you will easily find essential information from informational text.
For an example, I will follow my guidelines on how to read informational text to help me learn about sexual reproduction in flowering plants for my biology class. Right off the bat, I have established a clear goal why I am reading. Now, I must choose a resource to do my research. Since I am doing research for biology class, I will use my biology textbook.
After skimming through the table of contents, I found a chapter that is relevant to my goal.
Immediately after flipping to the right page, I am greeted by lots of information that can help me.
On the very first page of the chapter, I learn that birds play a critical role in plant reproduction. In addition, I learn that many plants reproduce sexually or asexually. This tells me that in this chapter, there is information that is relevant to my goal of learning about sexual reproduction in plants, but there is also information about asexual reproduction that I don’t need to know.
On the next page, there are helpful guides that will help with my reading. The Main Ideas section tells me that the chapter will go over reproductive structures, as well as other information that is not relevant to my goal. The Reading Strategy section, as well as the Guide for Reading help me be a more active reader. From the bolded text in the first paragraph, I learn that flowers are plant structures specialized for sexual reproduction.
After skimming the next page, there is no relevant information about sexual reproduction in flowering plants, so I move on.
On the next page, there is a diagram of a flower. There are also bolded words associated with the structure of a flower. From a previous page, I know that flowers are plant structures specialized for sexual reproduction. Therefore, this page contains important information.
The following pages have information about structures that produce male and female sex cells, as well as a diagram showing the life cycle of sex cells and pollination. By looking at the diagram and only reading the sentences that contain bolded words, I am able to learn information about sexual reproduction without reading every word in the text.
The next pages have information about fertilization. From the bolded words, I know that the process is called double fertilization and it begins in a pollen tube to form an endosperm. Learning about the formation of seeds is not part of my goal, so I ignore this section.
Finally, there is a section review at the end of the section. It helps me know what information is important and gives me an opportunity to test my understanding. After the section review, a new section begins. But, I know that I don’t have to read it because my goal does not involve learning about seed development. Furthermore, from reading the first page of the chapter, I know that this chapter contains other information that is not relevant to what I need to know. Since the section on sexual reproduction has ended, I can stop reading.
Hester, Darren. IND-EDU-071120-4. Digital image. MorgueFile. MorgueFile, 25 Nov. 2007. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/189443>.
Miller, Kenneth R., and Joseph S. Levine. Biology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print.