Before you commence your reading, make sure you have a number of questions related to your purpose to focus on, based on the points raised in the previous page. Depending on the purpose and your questions, you can then adopt a number of strategies to make your reading effective, focused and critical. The following 4-S reading method provides an approach you can take to improve your reading (see Boddington & Clancy, 1999, pp. 16-17).
Search out the structure
Begin by quickly glancing at the structure of the text to identify the layout. This will help you to identify all the structural elements of the text and assist you to skim and scan and get an overview of the entire text. This will make closer reading easier. This technique can be particularly useful when reading a textbook but can also be used for journal articles and other texts. Most textbooks are structured in levels - firstly by unit or topic, then by chapter, then by sections or subheading.
- Examine the contents page. Do any of the chapter headings or article titles look relevant to your topic or issue?
- Check the index at the back of the book for more specific information. If you are reading an electronic source, search for particular words or phrases (Ctrl + F/Command + F). Does the text contain relevant keywords?
- Take note of how the chapter/article is set out. Does it contain an abstract, introduction, conclusion, summary of the main findings etc.? Is it divided into different sections with subheadings? What do the headings and subheadings tell you about the focus of the source?
- Can you get a sense, just by a quick search, if the article focuses on an experiment, a case study, or a makes a theoretical argument?
By searching out the structure, you can quickly gain a big picture view of the reading, and identify whether it is going to be relevant or not. If it looks relevant, then the next step is to skim through key sections.
Boddington, P., & Clancy, J. (1999). Reading for Study & Research. Australia: Longman.