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speed reading > articles

Organizing, analyzing, evaluating, and reacting for speed reading

While each of the following strategies uncovers one aspect of a text, you may decide not to work with all of them or to work in this order. Also, donít get caught up in finding the right answers to a specific set of questions. There is almost always more than one-way to sort out a piece of writing.

  • Organize the text.
  • Give a name to each subsection and explain what writer "says" in the section and also what the section "does" to advance the flow of the text.
  • Write a paragraph description of the overall pattern of the text. Feel the text.
  • Use the main point and claims that you have identified to create a simple outline, and then put the transitions and conclusions the writer makes in their place on the outline.
  • Write a paragraph that explores the attitude of the writer. Is she or he being serious, humorous, angry, ironic, informative, argumentative, combative.
  • Skim through the text and find evidence of the attitude you suspect. Analyze the text.
  • Write outline brief one or two sentence explanations of how each part of the text-claim or pieces of evidence, transitions-connects to each other part
  • In a paragraph, explain how each part accomplishes the writerís purpose. Evaluate the text.
  • Review what you know about the author and the publication. Are they trustworthy sources for the topic? Does the writer or publication have an obvious bias?
  • Review the evidence you noticed. Is there enough of it? Is each claim supported? Are the evidence concrete, referring verifiable examples, statistics, and research?
  • Review the claims the writer makes. Are they clear and logically coherent? Do they all relate to the topic? React to the text.
  • List the points that trigger a reaction in you.

Free write a brief response to each trigger point. What reaction did you have on the first reading? What do you need to better understand? What is interesting to you?

Re-examine the content

When you review a piece of writing, you will often start by examining the propositions (main points or claims) the writer lays out and the support he or she provides for those propositions, noticing the order in which these arguments and evidence are presented. Making an informal outline that lists the main points, mapping out the essay, is one very effective way of reviewing a text. Here a well marked text will really save you time.

Having read through a text and annotating it, the goal in reviewing it is to re-examine the content, the structure, and the language of the article in more detail, in order to confirm you sense of the authorís purpose and to evaluate how well they achieved that purpose. 

Writer's structure

While you review, you should also tune in to the rhetorical choices the author has made, analyzing how the article is put together.  What the writer is actually claiming, and why she or he organized the piece in this way. What does the introduction accomplish? What functions do the individual paragraphs serve? What patterns of thinking does the author use to drive home the main points? The notes already tell you what the writer says; youíre now getting at what the writing does. You will also want to make note of the tone and attitude used to support and elaborate the writerís view. Is the writer serious or humorous? How can you tell? Does the writer seem to be offering only information or stating an opinion and backing it up? How do you know? Keep returning to the text for specific examples.

When you are reading an important document, it is easy to accept the writer's structure of thought. This can mean that you may not notice that important information has been omitted or that irrelevant detail has been included. A good way of recognizing this is to compile your own table of contents before you open the document. You can then use this table of contents to read the document in the order that you want. You will be able to spot omissions quickly.

Organization material

Finally, as you review the text, sorting out its organization and analyzing its rhetorical moves, evaluate the effectiveness of the text and the validity of the claims and evidence. At this point youíre judging for yourself whether the initial promise of the article has been kept and how the writerís values stack up against the mind. To keep track of the ideas, use your journal: identify any questions you have after this re-reading, and note any insights the reading has provoked in you.

For most people reading once is not enough.

Good reading is selective reading. It involves selecting those sections that are relevant to the purpose in reading. Rather than automatically rereading, take a few seconds to quiz on the material you have just read and then review those sections that are still unclear or confusing to you. Take notes.

For most people reading once time is not enough. Instead, skim once as rapidly as possible to determine the main idea and to identify those parts that need careful reading. Reread more carefully to fill the gaps in your understanding.

The most effective way of spending each study hour is to devote as little time as possible to reading and as much time as possible to testing yourself, reviewing, organizing and relating the concepts and facts, mastering the technical terms, formulas, etc., and thinking of applications of the concepts - in short, spend your time learning ideas, not painfully processing words visually.

When readers try to make sense of more complex texts by starting at the first sentence and reading straight through, they tend to get hung up, missing the forest for the trees.

Spend your energy reading a whole text again and again without previewing it, thinking about its title and other kinds of cues, and forming some hunches about its general organization and content is likely to be wasted effort, because you wonít get to the core of a textís meanings or see its larger significance and themes. Readers who quit reading because the text seems to make no sense should alter their reading strategy. Most of the students that we know donít have a lot of time to waste. Work smart. Preview, annotate, and re-read.


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