Though reading in college seems self-explanatory, many students enter college with a background in reading for comprehension. They read the text for homework, then went to class where the teacher asked for an overview of the plot, explained the difficult or archaic vocabulary, and maybe tested students on who said what line of dialogue. In college, instructors assume students know how to read for content. They’re not going to ask what happened after Hamlet saw the ghost or to summarize the story. They want students to go beyond that.
How to Read in College
- Mark up the text. Underline, highlight, ask questions in the margins. Pick out places where you disagree with the author or where you think the author could have elaborated. Write your comments on the reading on the actual book or print-out if possible.
- Look up any words you don’t know. The instructor expects you to be able to do this and won’t want to spend class time explaining something you could have easily found out for yourself.
- Think about other applications for the text. Maybe the author is discussing how a character was denied agency. Can you think of other texts where agency was denied? How were they different or similar?
- Challenge the text. Maybe the author is discussing how a text is not feminist. You disagree because you define feminism differently. Think about your definition and the author’s and about what each definition adds to the conversation and about what each definition cannot cover.