Active Reading

Active reading may seem overwhelming and time consuming. Using these strategies may actually lessen the time you spend reading!


  • Set up your environment. Consider lighting, noise, and location
  • Get to know the text. Skim the text’s introduction or summary, headings/subheadings, key terms, graphics, etc.
  • Define your purpose. Turn headings into questions. For example, the heading “Internal Receptors” is in a biology chapter about cell communication. You can turn the heading into “Where in the cell are internal receptors?”
  • Divide the chapter(s) into manageable sections Take a short break between large headings


  • Paraphrase the text or take notes after each paragraph, stop and summarize what you just read
  • Answer embedded questions
  • Mark the text with symbols to track your thinking.
    Examples of things you might want to mark include:
    • Confusing concepts (question mark)
    • Important (star)
    • Key terms (underline or highlight)
    • Mastered concept (checkmark)
    • Cycle or process (arrows in a circle)
  • Record your thoughts in the margins or your notes


  • Answer self-created heading questions, book questions, and homework questions
  • Outline big ideas and supporting details in your own words
  • Make a concept map to illustrate relationships and connections
  • Solve example problems Write clear explanations at each step
  • Combine and connect reading notes and lecture/class notes