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Identifying the Methods Used for Reading


There are a variety of reasons why people read. The purpose of reading depends on what it is you are looking to get out of it. Many people read for the joy of getting lost in a good story. Others read for information, such as to stay up to date on current events and sports scores. Some people, such as students, read to learn new concepts and to gain more in-depth knowledge about a specific subject.

Recreational reading: the purpose of reading for entertainment or keeping up with current events.

Recreational Reading

Recreational reading is used in cases in which you wish to be entertained or be up-to-date on current events. Popular examples of recreational reading include reading a novel, poetry, self-help books, newspaper, magazine, and other medias to which you are not required to read yet enjoy reading. Recreational reading doesn't require you to analyze or even try to learn or remember what it is you have read.

However, recreational reading does have its benefits. It allows the reader to relax without the pressure of retaining the materials. This unto itself will help expose the reader to new words and, therefore, increase the reader's vocabulary skills. Although memory work is not a requirement of recreational reading, it does promote a higher retention rate of the material being read. It also helps strengthen a higher-level of thinking skills while exposing the reader to new concepts.

In addition to these benefits, recreational reading is great for those who dislike reading or have poor reading skills. It allows the reader to read in a relaxed state that will not only help reduce a dislike of reading but strengthen reading skills. In essence, the more you read the better you will be at reading and the more enjoyable it will become.

Overview reading: the purpose of reading to skim for information and reading without interruptions.

Overview Reading

Overview reading is a reading process that allows the reader to familiarize his or herself with the materials or subject matter before switching to a more thorough process of reading. It allows you to skim or survey the contents of the topic you are about to read. This process could include getting an overview of the book's table of contents, chapter, or sections. It allows the reader to become more familiar with the flow of a short story or essay. Overview reading also allows the reader to read without pausing to analyze what was read. This helps strengthen the background of the materials presented. With works of fiction, it allows the reader to get lost in the words of the story as they go within their imagination to visualize and connect with the story and its characters.

Surveying: the reading process that allows you get an overview by skimming or previewing the materials provided.


Within the overview reading process, there is a technique called surveying. Surveying is when the reader is looking for the bigger picture or generalizes details before he or she starts fully reading the materials. It enables the reader to get better acquainted with the topic and may even inspire questions to consider for when the reader gets to the process of thorough reading.

Textbooks and Non-fiction Books

If you are a student, you are going to use textbooks in one format or another. Or perhaps you just bought a non-fiction book, such as a self-improvement book, and you want to maximize your comprehension of the subject matter. There are some thinks to consider when you are surveying or skimming a textbook or non-fiction book. Keep in mind that not all non-fiction book come with everything that is listed here, but these are just a general idea of what to look for.

  • Table of Contents - If you want to know what topics the textbook or the non-fiction book will be covering, the best place to start is to skim, or survey, the table of contents. Consider it as a "roadmap" to your book and, if a student, the class you are enrolled in. It contains topic headings and subheadings to better acquaint the student with the subjects that will be taught within the textbook.
  • Introductory Materials - Most people ignore the introductory materials provided within a book and unless assigned, don't even consider reading them. However, by taking the time to glance through or read the introductory materials, you will have a stronger concept of the information that will be covered along with possible tips to help you retain the information provided. Some of the introductory materials include the Preface, the Introduction, To the Teacher, and To the Student.
  • Appendix - In some textbooks, they include an appendix or several appendices. In most cases, an appendix is located in the back of the book. An appendix is a supplement that can be used with specific chapters to provide extra concepts or practice to enhance overall learning. It may also include practice exercises, review exercises, useful tables and charts, and even answer keys.
  • Index - The index is a list of significant topics found within the textbook or non-fiction book and are listed alphabetically. The index is found in the back of the book, typically the last several pages. This allows you, the reader, to quickly locate the topic you want to read about and see the coordinating page number(s) it would be found on.
  • Glossary - In the back of most textbooks, you will find a glossary. It is a small dictionary of key terms and vocabulary that is used in each chapter. These vocabulary words are typically in bold or italicized. Sometimes they are given a different color to help them stand out in the chapter and give the reader a cue that this is a term of importance that the student needs to know. A glossary is great for when it comes time to defining vocabulary words in your notes or on index cards.

Learn About the SQ3R Method

6 Steps to Surveying an Article or Essay

  1. Read the title. What is the title convey? What do you anticipate the article to be about? Are you going into reading the article with a predisposed opinion or genuine curiosity?
  2. Identify who wrote the piece. When you are about to read an article or essay, you will generally see the author's name in a byline underneath the title or somewhere close to it. Here at HubPages, the writer's name is toward the top on the right. In some cases, the author's affiliation or credentials may also be included. If so, does this give you an idea of the writer's perspective or possible level of knowledge on the topic?
  3. Introductory materials - In some cases, such as a formal college essay, the student is required to write an Abstract before writing the essay. Introductory materials, such as this, will give you some background as to the topic to which the essay was written on. Some of the background information may include research methods, key points to the research, some key results, along with the possible future significance of the findings on future word with regards to the topic.
  4. Read the first paragraph - Reading the first paragraph will give some insight to what the article or essay will be about. This is the thesis statement or main purpose to writing the article or essay.
  5. Skim through an article - You can then skim through an article to pick up subtopics or sections within the article. Some articles, such as this one, make skimming for information a bit easier by providing headings, subheadings, and side notes.
  6. Read the concluding paragraph - Most articles and all essays should have a conclusion paragraph. This conclusion paragraph is designed to summarize the information or summarize concluding thoughts. In some cases it touches on the key points of the essay, thus giving you a better idea of what you will be learning about in more detail.

Thorough reading: the process of reading that is done slowly and methodically to be able to improve comprehension and retention.

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Thorough Reading

Thorough reading is a process by which you will begin to read for understanding and memorization. It is a slower process as the reader takes his or her time to absorb the information read each paragraph at a time. It is a time that the reader without interruption and tries to maintain a solid focus on the information presented.

By reading a paragraph or a few paragraphs at a time, it allows the reader time to absorb the new information and process it with the information they already know. It allows the reader to contrast and compare the information presented with other information that has been presented within the same textbook or from a previous book or class. By taking the information in chunks, known as "chunking", the reader can easily take down any notes and increase the level of comprehension.

Chunking: a process by which the reader groups together pieces of information, such as reading one paragraph or one section at a time, for a more comprehensive level of understanding.

Adjusting Your Rate of Reading

Knowing when to adjust your reading rate is also a helpful skill to have. Some books you will read will flow easily and you will be able to build up momentum in your reading speed. However, when it comes to textbooks and other educational materials knowing when to speed up and slow down will help you retain key information with more accuracy. Some textbooks have easy levels of reading that allow you to chunk larger pieces of information together, thus reading more than one page at a time before stopping. Other textbooks have an average level of reading and are designed to apply the read-pause method of reading and learning, allowing the reader to identify main details and important information. Then there are textbooks with a more difficult reading level and tend to cover very complex ideas and information. In this case, a reader may need to pause after each sentence or two to be able to think about the information presented. This will help reduce the reader from getting lost in the material. Even still, the more difficult the reading level of the book, the greater chance of your reading process being switched to auto pilot mode.

Autopilot mode is when the reader is actively reading but is not focused on what the material is actually saying. So as your eyes are reading the words on the page, your mind is wandering to other topics, such as what to have for lunch or thinking about the other things you need to do. In this case, you find yourself reading and rereading and yet can't seem to retain the information presented. This is why you, the reader, should focus on the materials using the chunking method. This helps reduce the risk of running on autopilot and not learning the material presented. Autopilot mode can happen with any reading source, regardless of the ease or difficulty of the topic.

Top Strategies for Thorough Reading

  1. Have a plan of action.
  2. Consider using a warm-up reading activity.
  3. Adjust your reading rate.
  4. Utilize the concept of chunking.
  5. Consider reading out loud.
  6. Visualize in your mind what you are reading.
  7. Focus on vocabulary and key terms and what they mean.
  8. Avoid marathon studying and space out your time to study.
  9. Relate new information to information you already know.
  10. Be able to recognize the different reading level of a book or textbook to know how to adjust your approach.
  11. Take notes as you go to help you study and even self-quiz yourself.

Comparative reading: the reading process used to compare and contrast information present by more than one source.

Comparative Reading

Sometimes you may be asked to do a research assignment where you will need several sources to back up your findings. Other times you will be given several materials in class conveying the same basic information but may include a slight contrast. Even still, you may read several current articles on the same topic, but some may vary the information they report on. In these cases, you will have to use a process called comparative reading.

Comparative reading utilizes a higher-level of critical thinking skills. It requires you to ask questions and possibly challenge the content matter with your own opinions and knowledge. Comparative reading really gets the reader to think and analyze, thus intensifying the learning process. It inspires more an active approach to reading. You aren't just reading to learn only what is presented, you are challenged to be actively involved by asking a variety questions to add your own personal knowledge and critical thinking processes.

Some Questions to Ask

  1. Do the two sources have anything in common?
  2. What differences do the two sources have?
  3. Do the two sources have the same level of information presented?
  4. Do both writers have the same level of experience, knowledge, and credentials?

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into the reading process. First you identify why it is you are reading in the first place to know which reading process to use. Some reasons for reading may involve several types of reading processes, especially if you are a student or just someone trying to learn more about a new subject or topic in general. Putting your knowledge of the different types of reading processes to use will help you not only strengthen your reading skills but also help you retain more information in your brain's memory banks.

Reading Check

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The purpose of reading to skim for information and reading without interruptions.
    • Recreational Reading
    • Overview Reading
    • Comparative Reading
    • Thorough Reading
    • Surveying
  2. The reading process that allows you get an overview by skimming or previewing the materials provided.
    • Recreational Reading
    • Overview Reading
    • Comparative Reading
    • Thorough Reading
    • Surveying
  3. The purpose of reading for entertainment or keeping up with current events.
    • Recreational Reading
    • Comparative Reading
    • Thorough Reading
    • Overview Reading
    • Surveying
  4. A process by which the reader groups together pieces of information, such as reading one paragraph at a time.
    • Surveying
    • Chunking
    • Comparing
    • Grouping
  5. When the reader is actively reading but is not focused on what the material is actually saying.
    • Auto pilot mode
    • Comparison mode
    • Surveying
    • Chunking
    • Pause-read mode
  6. The reading process used to compare and contrast information present by more than one source.
    • Recreational Reading
    • Thorough Reading
    • Comparative Reading
    • Overview Reading
    • Surveying
  7. The process of reading that is done slowly and methodically to be able to improve comprehension and retention.
    • Recreational Reading
    • Overview Reading
    • Comparative Reading
    • Thorough Reading
    • Surveying

Answer Key

  1. Overview Reading
  2. Surveying
  3. Recreational Reading
  4. Chunking
  5. Auto pilot mode
  6. Comparative Reading
  7. Thorough Reading

Reader Discussion Activity:

Directions: Choose one or several of the questions below and leave your answers in the comment section below. Your responses may help someone else improve their reading skills and learning potential.

  • What advice would you give to students regarding which method of reading they should use to help maximize their learning potential?
  • Would your advice vary depending on whether the student was elementary, middle school, high school, or college level? If so, what would be the variation?
  • What is your favorite method of reading?
  • What advice would you give to a high school or college student to help them improve their reading skills.

© 2015 Linda Sarhan


Ann Carr from SW England on April 19, 2015:

This is an excellent hub for teachers and students alike. You've given a comprehensive guide to all kinds of reading, the techniques and benefits of each.

Reading promotes reading promotes reading which in turn promotes a love of reading.

I've taught English and Literacy for years and you've gone through everything I used to teach my students! Brilliant explanations and great advice.


Bruce Deitrick Price from Virginia Beach, Va. on April 17, 2015:

The main advice is, don't let anyone tell you you have to memorize sight- words. Or tell your children they have to memorize sight-words. This is a bogus method. All the phonics experts assert that children will routinely learn to read in the first grade, or the second grade at the latest, if you teach them with systematic phonics.

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