Systematic Reading

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Systematic Reading

Research on reading suggests that reading in a systematic manner may enhance your understanding of the material you are reading. Nearly all forms of systematic approaches to reading involve a before reading, during reading, and after reading stage. In each stage, readers carry out various activities as a mean of generating an understanding of the author’s message, which is the primary goal of reading.

Before Reading Stage

Importance of the Before Reading Stage

The before reading stage helps activate your schema. Your schema, or your prior knowledge, about the subject. Often, you have lots of knowledge about the topic, but because you haven’t prepared your brain to actively engage the reading, you haven’t fully utilized your brain power. In addition to activating your schema, the before reading stage helps you establish a purpose for reading the passage. For example, reading the questions at the end of the chapter, alerts you to what the author wants you to know or the author’s important points, information, or explanations given in the chapter. By reading the questions, you can concentrate more when you encounter possible responses to the questions. Finally, during this stage, you should be skimming to find words and phrases that you can clarify before you begin to read. Learning the meaning of these words and phrases, or at least having a definition nearby, helps your reading efficiency; you won’t have to interrupt your reading and concentration to look up words in a dictionary.

During the before reading stage, you should preview the material by:

  • Establishing a purpose for reading
    • Read the assigned questions at the end of the chapter
    • Read the title, the section headings, look at the diagrams and pictures, read the summary at the end of the chapter.
    • Read the table of contents
      • Many table of contents provide very thorough outlines of the chapters in a book.
    • Predict what the entire passage will be about
    • If you are continuing on to the next section, you should review your notes on the previous section that you read. For example, you were assigned to read chapter 1 last week, and this week, you are assigned to read chapter 2; then, you should review the notes you took on chapter 1 before you start reading chapter 2.
  • Generating questions that
  • Skimming the text
    • Look for words that you do not know, then after skimming the text, write the definitions for those words
      • Use your definitions as a quick reference so you don’t disrupt your reading momentum by going back and forth to the dictionary
    • Write down any paragraph topics that you have identified while skimming the text.
    • Highlight, underline, or mark answers to the questions at the end of the chapter that you see
  1. You think the passage may address
  2. Will help you understand what the author wants you to know
  3. Will help you learn the important information in the passage

During Reading Stage

Importance of the During Reading Stage

During this stage, you are adding new information to you existing schema. In other words, you are learning. Unfortunately, if the subject of the article, book, chapter, or paragraph is not important to us, our motivation for reading is next to non-existent. You must motivate yourself to read even if you are not very interested in the material because the information provided in the articles and books will very useful information in the future. Even as you are reading this introduction, you are adding to your schema about the importance of schema and reading.

One very important concept relevant to this stage is metacognition. Metacognition refers to one’s own awareness and understanding of her/his own thinking and her/his ability to control their own thinking processes. Another way of looking at metacognition is knowing that you know, knowing when you don’t know, knowing why you don’t know, and knowing how to acquire the knowledge so you do know. Metacognition is extremely important because as readers, we sometimes fool ourselves and think we understand what the author is presenting, but we don’t.

Readers must continually monitor their understanding by asking themselves questions and answering one’s own questions about the article, making reasonable predictions about upcoming passages, making corrections to our old knowledge that is wrong, and clarifying when information is unclear.

Some suggestions for monitoring your understanding:

  • Take notes of the entire passage while you are reading before you go to class
  • Check the accuracy of your understanding when you go to lecture
    • Review your reading notes and your notes before going to lecture
      • Be prepared to listen to explanations that clarify the concepts that you didn’t understand after reading your textbook
    • Do your notes agree with the contents of the lecture?
    • What aspects of the reading did your instructor clarify or answer the questions you had regarding the contents of the text?
  • After the lecture go back to your reading notes
    • Make corrections to the sections in your reading notes that are incorrect
    • Find the sections/concepts that were unclear, then using your lecture notes, write the main idea or summary for the section

Another important concept that will affect our understanding of a passage is barriers to thinking. These barriers include our own bias, opinions, and frame of reference which can influence our understanding of the passage. For example, many people believe that we should drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day. However, many researchers, doctors, and nutritionists say that the amount of water we drink per day will depend on several factors including, how active we are, the weather, the time of year, and physical factors. During the during stage, readers must be very diligent and monitor her/his own learning otherwise they run the risk of missing the author’s message, or worse, misunderstanding the author’s message.

During the during reading stage, you should integrate your existing knowledge and the information in the text you are reading by:

  • Predicting
  • Picturing
    • Generate pictures or images of the information. Some people have imagined the information as a video game, particularly when a process is being described.
  • Relating
    • Connect the information to your own experience or knowledge. Create some practical uses for the information being presented.
  • Monitoring
    • Monitor your understanding of a) the information being presented, and b) what the author wants you to know you finished reading each paragraph, section, chapter, and book.
  • Correcting
    • Correct any misunderstanding of the material. You can reread sections, discuss with classmates, and get clarification during lectures.
  • Annotating and taking notes of the material

The After Reading Stage

Importance of the After Reading Stage

The after reading stage is very important, however many of us overlook the importance of reviewing and recalling what we read and learned. During this stage, readers are asked to express what they learned through discussions and writing. Often, readers will say they understood the material, but when asked to explain what they read, many cannot adequately recall the information. Most likely, these individuals hadn’t taken the time to organize the information, or they didn’t really understand what they read, or both. Consequently, when studying for exams, these individuals use precious time because in order to do well on exams, they must go back and reread their textbooks over and over because they never really learned the information the first time they read the text. When we work alone, we often fool ourselves into thinking we know the material because we have no one to give us feedback. The following is a conversation between Sam and Pat, who are taking a nutrition class together:

Sam: Okay Pat, can you tell me the pros and cons of drinking milk?

Pat: Oh, that’s a good one. I remember the author said that milk can be good or bad for you. Some milk has some of those, I can’t remember… but, milk can help build your muscles because… wait… don’t tell me… I know the answer; I just can’t put it into words.

Did Pat’s example sound familiar? Notice that without Sam asking the question, Pat might have thought she knew the answer, but she really didn’t. Pat may have skipped studying for the exam because she thought she knew the pros and cons of milk. On the other hand, having to verbalize an answer for Sam, Pat now realizes she does not know the answer, now she can ask Sam for some help, or she go back and find the answer.

During the after reading stage, you should recall the information in the text you have read by:

  • Discussing the contents of the reading assignment
    • Work with a study buddy so you must verbally express what you learned.
    • Ask each other for clarification and explanations of specific topics or concepts.
    • Ask each other for exam type questions such as:
      • list important information
      • explain the process
      • give reasons
      • true/false
      • what can you conclude
      • define
  • Write about what you read
    • Summarizing is a good way to synthesize the information because you are supposed to write using your own words what the author wants you to know
      • People often write summaries to learn the material. Be careful, writing an effective summary presupposes that you already know the material.
    • Write a formal outline
      • If you are reading a textbook, then use the table of contents to help guide you. Many books contain a detailed version of the table of contents. After you write your outline, match yours against the detailed table of contents. Do the two outlines match? Can you explain the contents of each heading and subheading?
  • Think about what you read
    • What are some practical applications for what you read
    • Do you agree with the author’s information?
      • Careful because our own biases and barriers may prevent us from knowing the truth.
    • How and where does this material fit in with my field of study?

Some Final Thoughts on Systematic Reading

Getting into the habit of reading systematically takes time. Many readers become frustrated and bored because this process does require time. However, the time you spend on increasing your understanding of what you read has many benefits. First of all, when exam time comes, you will be reviewing the material because you’ve already learned the material the first time. If you hadn’t of learnt the material the first time, now you’d be having to take the time to learn the material, which includes understanding the material—not memorizing the material. Second, you are building a foundation for other classes, particularly those in your major. Remember, each succeeding class requires knowledge built up previous classes. If you don’t learn the material now, then trying to play catch-up from past terms is very difficult and time consuming. Chances of doing well in classes is greatly impaired. Third, you will be keeping a set of organized notes while you go through the process.

In addition to saving you time, since this is a systematic process, if you encounter some difficulties with the process, you will be able to identify some area that might need more help or put in more time. For example, it’s the sixth week of instruction. You had been reading your biology textbook in a systematic fashion, but this time since you have been learning about photosynthesis for the past week, you decide to pick up your textbook and start reading. You are about a half-page into your reading when you come across the term, “Calvin Cycle.” You know the term, but you can’t remember the equation for the reaction, which is the basis for the chapter you are now reading. Since you have been reading systematically, you can go back and check your notes from previous readings. In addition, you also know that you need to preview the chapter to see if you need to review specific information for the upcoming chapter. On the other hand, if you hadn’t been reading systematically, you wouldn’t have notes (you’d probably have highlighted text), and you would be jumping back and forth trying to fill in your information gaps.

Finally, the nice feature of this version of systematic reading is that it’s very general, therefore it is also flexible. Some forms of the before, during, and after reading model are very strict—must follow steps. The current version contains suggestions for each of the stages that contain activities, problems, tasks, or assignments, but you are not required to complete all of them. However, you should attempt to complete most of the problems, otherwise you will not fully benefit from the advantages of systematic reading. Happily, over time, as you become a more experienced and knowledgeable reader, you will figure out which problems or activities will help facilitate your understanding of the material. You may also figure out that some activities help you more than others depending on the topic you are reading. Lastly, you will, over time, figure out some shortcuts so you can read and study more efficiently.

QUESTIONS for Systematic Reading ( Article 1). Respond to the following questions on Systematic Reading

  • Define systematic reading.
  • Briefly describe each of the three stages of systematic reading.
  • List three advantages to systematic reading.
  • Briefly explain why students should begin systematic reading from the start of the school year.

ARTICLE 4 ( Article 4 will be in the attachment )

  • Warren, E. (2007). The vanishing middle class, pp. 64 – 74
    • clothing
    • food
    • appliances
    • car
    • At the time of publication, did a typical family spend more or less on items a – d?
    • Do you think a typical family spends more or less on each item in 2017?


1.Before you begin reading the article, read the questions on page 74. What do you think the author will present in the article?

2.How does Warren define the “middle class” in her article?

3.Who earns more, a person working in the 1970s or a person working in 2005?

4.According to Juliet Schor, Robert Frank, and John de Graaf, how does overconsumption “explain where the money went”? In other words, the current middle class brings home more money than in the past, but they have very little savings and a large amount of debt. How does overconsumption explain the reduction in personal savings and increase in debt?

5.Starting with the first full paragraph on page 69 to the end of the section on page 70, Warren analyzes the spending of a typical family. What are Warren’s conclusions regarding a typical family’s spending on:

  • In the next section, Where Did the Money Go? Warren explains where the money went. List the places where Warren claims the money went.

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