Academic Reading: What Does Your Professor Mean?

on 07/03/2018

Person Reading

Some academic genres do not require special skills and usage of sources, such as a short motivation essay, a report about a meeting or an analysis of an interview transcript. However, talking about academic writing in general, you should be aware of academic reading in the first place. Due to the reading of scientific literature, students not only master various theoretical approaches, find both arguments and counterarguments but also discover the most relevant scientific style, academic language usage, and other valuable techniques.

Some students say that it is difficult to read academic texts. Indeed, some of them have very long sentences, are full of terms to be searched in dictionaries, and include a lot of links to other sources. Here are a few effective academic reading strategies that can be used at home, at dormitory, in a library, as well as in groups during classes.

Academic Reading Strategies: Active Reading

We suggest that you read academic books actively. It is different from reading a novel because you do not only receive information: you process it and analyze. While reading use pens, pencils, etc. with the help of which you can highlight main ideas to pay extra attention to and write down your comments. It is natural that in the course of active reading you may have a variety of thoughts, you may agree or strongly disagree with the author. Make notes, and this will make your reading even more productive because it will be much easier to use the source for further paper writing.

Ask Yourself Questions: What is Academic Reading?


Ask yourself questions and try to find answers. It is important to follow the given sequence of the questions:

  • What is the main idea of the work? (Try to be as objective as possible, be unbiased, like in a philosophy essay)
  • How is the main idea supported and what evidence is used in the text? (Here we will find out whether the text really accomplishes its tasks and refers to the topic)
  • Do you agree with the author’s point of view? (You may agree, disagree, or partially agree with the ideas covered in the text. Forget that the text was written by an authoritative scientist and you are just a student: do not feel afraid to dispute with the author)
  • How is this text connected to the paper you are working on currently? Do thoughts of the author correlate with your arguments? (Here you will see the practical value of the reading)
  • What are the key ideas of the scientific text being examined?
  • What question does the writer try to give an answer to? (Here you will define supplementary ideas and tasks set by the writer)
  • How to express the essence of the reading in a few phrases? Summarize it effectively.

Make Notes


It will be a good idea to have a notebook for all these notes. It is a must to write down what text you are reading (a full bibliographic description) in order not to get lost. Some of your notes may serve as the answers to the above-mentioned questions. Notes should represent exclusively main ideas of the reading. It is up to you to choose in what format to organize them:

  • A mental map (visualizing the key ideas of the text and links among them);
  • A linear conspectus (making notes following the sequence of information in the original source);
  • A list of ideas (points of view);
  • Diagrams, schemes, tables, etc.

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