Select and study

Based on your searching out the structure and skimming, you are now in a position to better identify which parts of the text need to be read closely. Depending on the purpose of your reading, you may decide that the entire text needs to be read intensively or you may only need to read one section or paragraph. After skimming you may also decide that you do not need to read this particular text any further as it may not be relevant to your particular topic or assessment task. Mark the particular sections with a highlighter or pen so that you can easily find them again. Try not to get distracted by reading intensively at this point as you want to get the full overview first.

Whilst searching, skimming and selecting the material can take some time, they will save you time in the longer term by enabling you to focus your reading on the parts of the text that you need for that particular purpose.

Study the relevant parts

Once you've identified what is relevant, next you need to take the time to read the text closely. You may need to read important sections more than once. At this stage, it is important to take good notes. Also you should aim to try and summarise the author's argument/position. If you find words or terms that you are unsure of you may also need to consult external sources (a discipline-specific dictionary, websites, general texts etc.).

Critically engaging with the text means to:

  • analyse the logic of the author's argument; and
  • assess the strengths and weaknesses of the argument/evidence in relation to other readings.

When closely studying a section of the text, examine the reasoning developed by the author and what conclusions they draw from this reasoning. Look for the connections made from one conclusion to the next. Question the assumptions and assertions made by the author and whether their reasoning and conclusions are convincing and reasonable. It's important to take notes for your future reference. The section on Note-taking provides tips and tools for how to do this.