Answered By: Jenny Mills
Last Updated: May 09, 2024     Views: 10

Read Smarter, not harder! 

Instead of passively reading a text from start to finish, strategically read parts of the article (title, abstract, introduction, section headings, and conclusion), to look for the main point(s) or argument. Once you have a firm grip on that, and on how it will be a useful source for you, decide which parts of the main text you need to spend the most time with.

Follow the prompts below to strategically read different parts of the article.

  1. Read the title (and nothing else!). What do you think the article will be about?

(Tip – the title often includes the subject matter and the methodology, or how the author will approach the subject matter.

  1. Read the abstract and see if you can identify the following:
  • The main problem or question the article addresses
  • The author’s approach (how they did the work to enable them to write the article)
  • The author’s conclusions
  • Why people should care about the work

(Tip – the abstract is very important! It’s usually one paragraph at the beginning of the article that encapsulates the main points)

  1. Read the introduction. What more did you learn about the article?

(Tip – The introduction serves the same function as the abstract but with more details. Don’t breeze through the introduction in order to get to the “meat” of the text. In fact, do the opposite! Take time to understand the introduction because it could summarize the whole piece, present the main idea, tell us why we should care, and may even offer a road map for the rest of the article. Oh, and sometimes the introduction is obviously labeled, “Introduction,” but sometimes not. See if you can find it!

      4. Section headings. Does the article include section headings? Do they help you to see the trajectory of the article?

     5. Conclusion. What does the author conclude?

(Tip - Pay close attention to the conclusion! It can help make sure you’ve understood the Introduction. Even a slight re-phrasing can help you understand the author’s arguments in an important, new way.)

    6. Relevance to your purpose. When you have a general understanding of the text’s different parts and of the main argument, think about what relevance the article has to your own purpose. How might you use ideas from the text to “enter the conversation” about the topic or questions at hand.

Happy reading!

*This activity was adapted from,“Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources,” by Karen Rosenberg, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US


For more reading strategies, see:

Interrogating Texts: 6 Reading Strategies from Harvard

How to Read for College from Carleton University