Improving Study Skills

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Understanding what you have read

Reading and note-making

  1. In order to understand or make meaning of what you are required to read active strategies can be very helpful
  2. Find a way to get more background information about the concepts you are trying to understand. You could try another text or resource where the language may be simpler, and the writing more clear.
  3. Look at the material in context. You can do this by:
    1. understanding the chapter titles, headings and text that is in bold print, - do this before you actually read the passage.
  4. When you come across unfamiliar vocabulary:
    1. FIRST try to understand it from its context.
    2. If you still can’t interpret the meaning, look up the word and record its definition in your notes.
  5. The more often you use the new terms, the sooner you will understand them.
  6. Being able to read the text is not enough for true understanding
  7. Check your own understanding after reading:
    1. ask yourself questions representing different levels of thinking, from simple to complex
    2. Summary : use What? When? Where? to provide a simple summary of the material
    3. Analysis: ask more analytical questions - How? Why? What is the relationship between X and Y? How might this information be relevant in other situations?
    4. Hypothesis: If this happens, then what?
    5. Evaluation: think about the Pros/Cons, the arguments for and against the topic to help you judge and evaluate

SQ4R Method

  1. This method of reading helps understanding and retention of information. It works because you are actively involved at all times.
  2. It takes time initially, but it actually saves you time in the end because you are don’t have to reread the material from scratch and you are studying for your tests at the same time.
  3. The steps of SQ4R:
    1. Survey or scan the material quickly. Look at the headings, bold text, diagrams, charts and pictures if there are any. Read the summary of the chapter so you can be more focussed in reading for the main ideas when you actually do your reading.
    2. Question: After the survey turn the headings into questions. For example, if the heading reads “ Recession”, you could start by asking yourself “What is a recession? What might the causes and symptoms be?” By turning headings into questions, you are helping yourself concentrate, and helping to focus your reading.
    3. Read: Next read the passage. Keep your pen or pencil or highlighter handy. You might want to make notes in the margin, or underline key words, or highlight a summary statement.
    4. Record: After you read, make some notes of the key points. Some students prefer to read and record at the same time, which is fine, too.
    5. Recite: Now close the text and recite what you remember. Go back and check.
    6. Review: Finally, write a summary of what you have read, in your own words, and in an interesting way.
  4. This method can be used with a mind-map of each stage.

Read, Stop, Think, Write

  1. For those who feel that the SQ4R method won’t work for you, here is a shortened version.
    1. Read a paragraph, diagram, or chart
    2. Think
    3. Write what you remember
    4. Summarize in your words “This section was about…..”
    5. Highlight only as a review tool – not the first time through

Construct Method

  1. The name comes from Concept + Structuring.
  2. This method helps you to identify and prioritize important ideas and main points when reading:
  3. Use a diagram to show conceptual relationships in a reading
    1. Identifies and prioritizes important ideas and main points first
    2. Distinguishes main point from evidence or detail
  4. The diagram needs to include enough information to act as a framework for the concept.
  5. Start your diagram by writing the topic in a shape in the middle of the page. The rest of the conceptual structure will eminent from the topic. Now skim reading a selection using the survey step you learned in SQ4R method.
  6. Now you will read the selection 3 times.
    1. 1st Read - Find the Key Concept: Read the selection to understand the global meaning of the text. You don’t have to remember everything and non-essential information is ignored at this point. Working outwards form the topic, jot down a few words that capture the meaning of this key concept. E.G. If your topic is Genetically Modified Foods, your 1st key concept might be Health Affects of GMFs.
    2. 2nd Read - Find Essential Information: Read the selection again. Add all the essential information to the diagram. E.g. Your key concept is Health Impacts, and some of the essential info might be allergies to GMFs, unknown long term health impacts of GMFs, and poor nutrition.
    3. 3rd Read - Find non-essential Information: Now scan the text for all non-essential data. Add any data to the diagram that will help you clarify and understand the concept. E.G. Essential info might be “Allergies to GMFs” and non-essential info might be some of the many examples of type of allergies.
  7. Finally, check your diagram and make sure you understand everything. If not, go back to the reading and check for clarification.

Self-assessment and Monitoring

  1. You need to know how effective any strategy you are using is for you.
  2. Ask yourself: “How well am I understanding the information I read?”
  3. Evaluate regularly - what strategies are working well?
  4. What needs to change?


  • Dyslexia Outreach, LCC STAPS team