Reading Strategies

Reading is an inevitable part of being a student, so it is important to be effective at this skill. Online learners, in particular, are required to do extensive reading. But regardless of the format of your learning, when you learn to read effectively, you can process new information faster and improve your grades.

There are many ways of becoming a more effective reader, but most require more than just reading! Different course materials, such as texts, journal articles, and course guides, require you to use different approaches to get the most out of the material. The following strategies give you options for tackling your course readings. If you are unsure which strategy you need, consider the following suggestions:

  • Make a chapter map as a previewing strategy to give you an overview of a chapter or longer journal article
  • Use PQRST when you need to learn all or most of the material in great detail. This technique is particularly useful with textbooks.
  • Try multi-pass reading when you are unsure if an article will be useful to you or if you require guidelines on how thoroughly to read your material.
  • Check out the online reading tips for ideas on improving your reading skills when working at your computer.

Create a Chapter Map

Before reading a chapter, it is a good idea to skim the chapter to identify key concepts and then create a visual chapter map of these concepts. These visuals help improve your reading in a number of ways:

  • You get an overall sense of the chapter's organization and the relationships between concepts in the material.
  • If you find yourself getting lost while reading, your chapter map can help you get your bearings again since the map shows how the passage fits into the chapter's overall structure.
  • A chapter map can help you make sense of an instructor's lecture. Some instructors have a tendency to present content in a seemingly random fashion, and students can easily get lost. If you create a chapter map in advance of class, you can refer to it while your instructor is speaking to keep your thoughts in order and see the relationships more easily.
  • A chapter map can act as an excellent review tool when preparing for exams since it gives a "snapshot" of important concepts.

Chapter maps are fairly simple to create. Once you get the hang of using them, they only take 5-10 minutes to generate on a piece of paper or using a tool on the computer, such as SmartArt in Microsoft Office or Check out this quick demonstration to learn how to create a chapter map:

For a script of the video, please click here


As a student, you may find reading textbooks is a difficult or boring task.  Fortunately, there are strategies that can help you become better at it. However, these techniques require more from you than just reading the chapter from beginning to end! To be successful, you should do certain things before, during and after you read. PQRST, which stands for Preview, Question, Read, Summarize, and Test, is a valuable technique you can use to actively tackle your textbooks.


To learn about the PQRST strategy, review each of the steps below. You can also download a print friendly summary of these steps.

For a script, click here

Multi-Pass Reading

What it is Multi-Pass Reading?

Linear reading (word-for-word, beginning to end) is a commonly accepted method for reading novels, magazine articles, and other general material. However, study reading requires a strategic approach since you need to understand and learn content and use that information when you write exams, papers, summaries or critiques.

Multi-pass reading is a strategy that helps you deliberately attack reading tasks based on what you need to know from your reading material. The steps you complete depend on the difficulty of the material and your specific learning needs. For example, sometimes you only need a shallow reading of the title, headings, and pictures of an article. At other times, you need a deeper reading where you closely examine the text, noting the author's arguments and supporting ideas.

© #11303167. Used under licence with istockphoto

Picture yourself going through a reading assignment as if you were a perfectionist vacuuming a messy carpet. On the first pass, your carpet beater picks up larger, loose pieces—crumbs, bits of paper, loose dirt. On your second pass, you press a little harder and go a little slower, picking up lint, dog hair, and ground-in dirt. Finally, you use only the nozzle to go after pieces of lint and hair that even the carpet beater can't get, picking up each fleck individually until the carpet is spotless.

Similarly, you begin multi-pass reading by picking up some important information quickly—a "shallow" pass—and move on to deeper passes to get more and more detail from your reading. You continue until you have reached your purpose. If you have the information you need, you quit reading. In many situations, it is not necessary to reach the deepest level of word-for-word reading. However, if you decide you need more information, you complete another deeper pass until you have what you need.

How to Use Multi-Pass Reading

If done effectively, multi-pass reading can increase your comprehension and memory, keeping you focussed and saving you time. But what exactly should you do at each pass of this strategy? Basically, multi-pass reading can consist of up to 4 different passes:

Each of these passes may involve a number of sub-steps, depending on the reader's learning needs. Study the attached .pdf document, "Steps in Multi-Pass Reading," to see what's involved in each pass. Notice how the reader is applying only the appropriate steps to the reading material.

Now reinforce your understanding of the multi-pass reading strategy by completing the following activity: "How Deep Do You Go?" Once you understand the steps, try applying the strategy to your own reading – notice the difference it makes!


Directions: For each reading situation, select the deepest multi-pass (1, 2, 3, or 4) you would need to complete the reading task.

For a script that works with text-to-speech software, click here.

How to Read a Scholarly Journal Article

To better understand the particular way in which scholarly journal articles are structured and learn about the type of information each different section offers, check out the following videos:

You can also try out this interactive tutorial from Hunter College that will show you some of the "best practices" to follow when reading a scholarly journal.

As well, you can download a print friendly template that will walk you through a series of quick steps to help you when reading scholarly articles.

Online Reading Tips

For a script that works with text-to-speech software, click here.