This series is from a handout given to Harvard freshman titled “Interrogating Texts: 6 Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year at Harvard.” It’s never too early to practice, even if we’re not all going to Harvard. But first, some background from Susan Gilroy, Lamont Library, Reference Services.
Critical reading – active engagement and interaction with texts – is essential to your academic success at Harvard, and to your intellectual growth. Research has shown that students who read deliberately retain more information and retain it longer. College students rarely have the luxury of successive re-readings of material, either, given the pace of life in and out of the classroom.
Preliminary impressions (looking around) offers you a way to focus your reading. For instance:
- What does the presence of headnotes, an abstract, or other prefatory material tell you?
- Is the author known to you? How does that influence your perception?
- How does the layout of a text prepare you for reading? Is the material broken into parts–subtopics, sections, or the like? How might the layout guide your reading?
- Does the text seem to be arranged according to certain conventions of discourse? Newspaper articles, for instance, have characteristics that you will recognize (inverted pyramid with the important information at top); textbooks and essays are organized quite differently. Texts demand different things of you as you read, so whenever you can, register the type of information you’re presented with.
Next up: Annotating