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Reading in the Disciplines: Home

Why read?

1. Class attendance is no substitute for doing the required reading. 

Professors carefully select readings to prepare students to participate in class discussion. The class lectures work in collaboration with the readings, but do not replace them. students who do not do the readings are at a disadvantage. 

2. Visual aids are not a substitute for the text. 

While the illustrations, charts and graphs in a reading are very important to understanding the text, they do not replace it. To completely understand the reading, the text and the illustrations work together. 

3. Reading helps you develop the logical thinking required for college success. 

The objective of a class is not simply to get a good grade for your transcript, but also to develop the skills required for success in college, career and life after college. Reading on the web can be very distracting with multiple streams vying for your attention. Scholarly writing in textbooks, books and articles provided by your professors enables you to engage thoughtfully with the materials, see the logical structure and assists in the development of critical thinking skills. 

4. Reading can improve your grades. 

Reading the course materials will help you to develop insights into the course material and will assist you in getting better grades on assignments.  additionally because learning is cumulative learning, something in one course will assist you with learning in future courses. It may not seem like it now, but there will come a time when you realize it all fits together. 

Adapted from McWhorter, K.T. (2015) Reading across the Disciplines: College Reading and Beyond. Pearson. 


Close Reading

The process of writing an essay begins with reading a text.  There are severla techniques that will assist you in doing a close reading of a text.

1. Read with a pencil in hand, and annotate the text as you read. Underline or highlight key words and phrases that catch your interest.  Highlight sparingly, if you highlight everything it loses the purpose of highlighting.  Make notes in the margins of the text. If you are reading e-books use the annotating features.

Think about the authors argument and the evidence presented.

2. Look for patterns among the things you have noticed. Make a note of patterns you are noticing, and question what the author is trying to tell you.

3. Ask questions. Look at the evidence.

Adapted from Kain, P, (1998) How to do a close reading. The Writing Center at Harvard University.

Strategies for Effective Reading Skills

Some tips to help you better understand what you are reading

  • Create a graphic organizer.
    • Organize ideas into categories, or a pros and cons list.
    • Organize the structure of the text and the argument.
  • Create and apply evaluation criteria
    • Ask yourself about the following
      • Authority-Who wrote this? Are they credible?
      • Currency-When was this written? Is it still accurate?
      • Relevancy-Is this relevant to my topic?
      • Accuracy-Is this correct? Have you checked the facts with other sources? Is the information portrayed in the source correct?
      • Objectivity/Bias-Is the information portrayed in the portrayed in a neutral way? Do the authors have a bias?
      • Appropriateness-Is this a scholarly source> Does the information pertain to your topic and argument? Would you use this for your writing?
  • Summarize the reading
    • Can you sum up the main points of the reading into 25 words.
  • Read with a purpose
    • Ask questions about the reading.
    • Focus on why you are doing the reading.
  • Read based on genre
    • Understand the basics and the purpose of the genre of the reading and pull from your previous knowledge and experience in the genre in order to make inferences, guide understanding and build on your "reading repertoire.' Apply the knowledge you have gained previously from other readings to new readings you encounter.


Adapted from Strategies for Effective Reading Skills. 2017 Stonehill College.


As readers, we are accustomed to constructing meaning from texts. As students, you have been reading from your earliest memories, but college reading often requires the development of new skills and strategies to confront the unique needs of the different disciplines.  Many disciplines have different ways of communicating the essential information in the field, and this requires a different approach to reading the texts in the field. 

There are some general strategies to approaching college reading that apply to many fields.

College reading is an active process requiring you to interact with the text as you read it. 

This process requires you to :

  • Ask questions
  • Make predictions
  • Test hypotheses
  • summarize
  • synthesize
  • monitor your understanding of the text. 

Your knowledge of a topic will enhance your reading, and your reading will enhance your understanding of the topic. If you are having a great deal of difficulty with a text, ask yourself why. If you are having difficulty one good strategy is to look for background information about the topic so you can place the reading in context. Another really successful strategy is to formulate questions about the reading and then discuss it with a classmate, and then go back to the reading. 

These are general guidelines, for more information select your discipline for more in-depth recommendations. 

Adapted from Lee, C.D., and  Spratley, A. (2010) Reading in the disciplines. Carnegie Corporation of New York.

What am I Reading?

What is an Academic Journal?

Researcher publish the results of the work in academic journal. Most often the articles report on recent discoveries and research. Some academic journals publish theoretical discussions and article that critically review other published works. Academic journals are favored as information source because the articles have been revised before being published. Articles are lengthy and complex. These articles are written for scholars and academics.

Peer-review or not?

Some database identify which journals are peer review publications and give you the option to limit to these types of journals.

What is the peer-review process?

Getting research published in a peer-reviewed (or “refereed”) academic journal is a process. There are usually three to four different steps.  First, a researcher must submit an article manuscript for consideration. Second, the manuscript is then give to other qualified scholars in the same field of study to review. Third, the editors of the journal evaluate the reviews and accept or reject the manuscript. If rejected, the author must make revisions, resubmit the manuscript and the review process it repeated. This insures that only the best researched and written articles are published.

What is a Trade Journal?

Are written for professional and practitioners in the field. The articles are short and provide a quick updates and information without the degree of detail as a scholarly article. A good source of information to current trends and programs.

Many trade magazines publish opinions and have editorial columns. Some contain information of how other organizations or agencies are dealing with a particular problem or situation. Publications standards are not a high as academic journal.  The articles are short, contain low level statistics and the methodology is not reported.  

Sources vs. Their Delivery Vehicle

Professor Sarah Gracombe explains one of the issues that often confuses students is the difference between specific sources and their delivery devices. When asked what journal an article they found came from, they will often say "JSTOR." Littkle attention is paid to the specific journal an article came from. let alone why that might matter.

Professor Gracombe says, "When Choosing an article, it's important to go beyond the title or keywords and consider the specific journal and its focus." Different journals have different approaches and different levels of authority. Some journals have long histories of distinguished publication, and others are newer.

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