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Strategies for reading academic texts

Try this with any text you need to read:

Before reading

1. Think about your reasons for reading the text:

  • you are interested because it is about your subject, or it is related to your subject
  • you want background information, or detailed information
  • you want to know what the writer's views are
  • you are going to have a discussion
  • you are going to write an essay on this subject later
  • Each reason will influence the way you read e.g. quickly or slowly, looking for fact or opinion.

    2. Look at the title, headline, any sub-headings, photos or illustrations. Use these to predict what the text will be about - the topic.

    3. Think about what you already know on this topic.

    4. Write down what you would like to find out from the text. You could write actual questions you would like answers to.

    5. Make a note of words or phrases connected with the topic that you may find in the text.



    1. Survey the text: read the first and last paragraphs and the beginning  and final sentences of the other paragraphs.

    How close were your predictions?

    Do you have a very general idea of the structure of the text, what the different parts are about?

    2. Identify your purpose for reading.

    1. If you are looking for specific information, read the part where you think the information will be.
    2. If you want a general idea of the whole text, read the whole text.

    In both cases ignore words or sections you don't immediately understand.

    You should now have a general idea of what the text is about and if it is going to be useful for you. Does it answer the question(s) you asked?

    3. Write down in 1 or 2 sentences:

    4. Do a second more careful reading, marking any new words that are important for your understanding.

    Check on the main idea and revise what you wrote if necessary.

    Decide what the subsidiary ideas are. How do they relate to the main idea? Put all the ideas together in linear notes, or as a mind map.


    With the new words which you think are important:

    if an approximate meaning is enough,

    if the exact meaning is needed,

    Difficult sentences

    Divide the sentences where there are connectives or markers.


    After reading

    1. Make a list of the new words which you think will be useful for you in the future. Give:

    e.g. counsellor (noun)=a person who gives help and support to people who have problems, an adviser [counsel (noun), to counsel]

    2. Evaluate what you have read:

    Thanks to the English Language Centre, University of Exeter for this exercise.


    Try it with these texts - Exercises.