Reading academic material is very different from reading for pleasure. Academic reading is an active process that goes beyond merely reading and highlighting your text. You need to interact with the text by taking notes, making connections between the text and what you already know or have experienced, and asking critical questions about the material you are reading.
Academic writing takes time – including setting aside time to write first drafts that you revisit to read with fresh eyes. This will improve clarity, organization of ideas, word choice, grammar and other elements.
Reading Strategies for Difficult Texts
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 difficult texts.
Without sufficient vocabulary for academic purposes, it can be difficult to:
Expanding your vocabulary should be a top priority. The best way of expanding your vocabulary is through constant exposure to well-written texts. You can also complete the confidential Academic English Health Check to better understand your current level of vocabulary and to receive recommendations for support to help you succeed in academic communication.
Most students find it difficult to explain abstract and complex information in writing. Communicating difficult concepts and presenting well-reasoned arguments demands far more than just being able to express oneself in grammatically “perfect” sentences. Critical thinking, organization, clarity and precision in word use require more than just grammatical skill.
Many students realize that developing their writing skills enables them to express more complex thoughts. Developing a higher level of competency in academic writing takes time, patience, determination and effort, so it is important to begin that journey as early as possible.
Students who are English language learners, and students learning Academic English need to improve their ability to express ideas clearly and logically, especially since many may come from cultures where conventions of good academic writing are very different from North American conventions. Different academic contexts have different expectations, and learning these expectations is central to academic success.