Reading Strategies

When reading, you are likely to encounter unfamiliar concepts, or material that is hard to understand.

The following is a series of strategies to help you navigate through difficult texts:

  • Before reading, examine the overall structure of the book or article to see how it is put together. Then read the introduction and conclusion carefully, so that you know the thesis and main conclusions before immersing yourself in the details. This preparation will help you situate difficult passages into the context of the whole.
  • To understand a particularly complex sentence, begin by searching for the main subject and main verb. These two components will give you a basic idea of what the sentence is about.
  • When you encounter an unfamiliar concept or word, analyze the context to determine its meaning.
  • Parse sentences or paragraphs into their components to see what ideas are linked and how.
  • Remember that it is not necessary to understand every nuance of every sentence before proceeding to the next. If the sentence or its concepts remain obscure, make an educated guess and continue reading. Test your understanding to see if it fits with the rest of the discussion. If not, revise.
  • If you are still having trouble with words or concepts, and they are central to your reading, look them up in a specialized dictionary.