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Academic reading: The reading process

Before you read

Below is a visual representation of the first stages of the reading process: the preparation and reading stages.

What should you do before you read?

Ask yourself some questions

They consider their purpose for reading - your reading strategies and purpose will go hand in hand[1].

If you’ve been given questions, read through them and highlight or underline key words and phrases. When you search for those words/phrases in the text (scanning, see also Module 3), this will guide your reading and help complete any assigned tasks.

If questions haven’t been provided, think of some questions of your own and keep these in mind as you read. The questions you ask depend on the type of text you are reading. Here are some general questions to help you apply, analyze or evaluate the reading:

  • What do I think of this topic now?
  • Why do I think this?
  • What do I want to find out?
Questioning the writing
  • What is the author's main argument?
  • How good is the evidence for the argument?
  • Is it convincing? Why (not)?
  • What are the limitations or flaws in …?
Form your own opinion
  • Which bits of the author's argument do I want to use/reflect on in my writing?
  • How do the author's ideas fit in with my own?
  • How do they fit with other relevant theories/ideas?
  • Is my own theory/idea still valid? If so, why?
  • Am I surprised by any of the reading? If so, why?


Choose one of the essay titles below and think about what you already know about this subject. Note your initial thoughts and think about what you already know about the topic and what you'd like to find out. Think about this for 2 minutes and make notes.

Essay title: Millennials in the workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials' Organizational Relationships and Performance


Essay title: Globalization and Corporate Social Responsibility

Skim the text before you read

Good readers are active readers. This means that they read with purpose. Before reading in-depth, use some of the techniques that you learned in Module 3: skimming and scanning. Think of this as surveying the text to activate your background knowledge and become familiar with what you’ll read. Aim to spend only a few seconds on each page just to get an overview of about 10 to 20% of the key concepts/ideas and have a basic mental outline of the text. Be sure to read the abstract before you read the whole article. Also, scan the boldface headings in to see where to locate the information you need and save time.

Bracket the main idea or thesis of the reading, and put an asterisk next to it. Pay particular attention to the introduction or opening paragraphs to locate this information and also the conclusion & summary. When surveying, look at the titles, headings, visuals, vocabulary words, end of chapter questions. Aim to spend about 6 seconds per page, but by the end, you should understand about 40% of the key ideas and can easily describe the text's basic pattern of organization.