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Reading Guide

Crack open your books and get reading! Photo courtesy of SFU Library Special Collections
Published by Julia Lane

This Reading Guide is designed to help you read more efficiently and effectively by focusing your attention on what to look for any time you read anything (for any course or research paper). Eventually, you won’t need the reading guide because you’ll have begun to automatically ask yourself these kinds of questions as you read.

The Reading Guide questions 

  • What kind of reading is it? (ie. What discipline or genre? For who?)
  • In one (or two) sentences, what is the main point?
  • How is the reading structured/organized? (ie. Chapters? Sections with Headings?)
  • What are the author(s)’s problems? Questions? (ie. what does the author(s) want to know?)
    • What are the author’s main arguments/solutions/conclusions?
  • If you are researching, what are your research questions guiding the reading? (ie. what do you want to know?)
    • If you are researching, how does the author aid/address your research questions/problems?
    • Why is the reading of value? What does it contribute? Or how does it help you with your research?
  • Are there any important keywords or words you don’t understand (look up meanings where needed)?
  • Are there important sentences/passages (try to paraphrase these in your own words)?
  • What issues are raised when compared to how others address/shed light on your guiding questions/problem? (Think about the reading in relation to other readings)
  • Maybe consult additional resources for context:
    • Who is the author? What tradition do they belong to?
    • What time period was it and what was happening during the writing?
    • What geographic location are they writing in/about?
    • Who/what are the author’s influences?
    • Are there controversies and criticisms about this author/reading?1

How to use the Reading Guide 

There are no rules! Answer the questions that are relevant/useful to you or add your own questions.

Your answers can be short, long, sentence form or point form.

You can keep your notes in hardcopy or electronically, and there are pros and cons to each method. For instance, it is often easier to carry a hardcopy notebook with you and keep notes while "on the move." However, electronic notes are easier to search. 

It is helpful to accompany reading notes with a full bibliographic citation for each reading. This saves you time when you need to create a Works Cited or References list. 

For more tips on effective and efficient academic reading, check out these resources on the SLC's Learning and Studying pages. 

open books with pencils and glasses

- Jennesia Pedri, SLC Graduate Writing Facilitator and PhD candidate in the School of Communication at SFU


1 Work Consulted: Mortimer, Adler J. and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. New York: Touchstone Book, 1972. Print.