New Student Orientation Resource Book

INTENSIVE READING TECHNIQUE

I.  The intensive Reading Technique is reading for a high degree of comprehension and retention over a long period of time.

II. Intensive Reading is basically a "study" technique for organizing readings which will have to be understood and remembered. One may have good comprehension while reading line-by-line, but remembering is what counts!

III. Intensive Reading is not a careful, single reading, but is a method based on a variety of techniques like scanning, the surveying techniques of planning your purpose, and others.

PRINCIPLES OF INTENSIVE READING

O - Overview

S - Summarize

P - Purpose

T - Test

Q - Questions

U - Understanding

R - Reading

These seven procedures cover the method for very effective reading for detailed comprehension and long retention.

A. OVERVIEW: We have two methods to obtain and overview - surveying or skimming. Both are concerned with reading only the more important parts. With either we would start with the summary, if one existed. We would next read the title, the beginning, headings, and endings, and note illustrations. Where headings are missing or inadequate or where unfamiliar material demands a more complete overview, we would resort to skimming with its greater attention to topic and summary sentences, and other cues within the paragraphs. As you get an overview of a long section, you may only survey part and skim the sections that are hard to understand. From this you should get the general theme and main ideas from the important topics and questions discussed and the major conclusions. The principle to guide you is to spend the least amount of time and effort required to secure these elements and only these elements

The advantage of an overview is its aid in organization. Also when we read the material line-by-line later on, the important points are familiar to us and thus easier to understand and remember. This is what is meant by "double exposure".

B. PLANNING PURPOSE: Planning your purpose means to take a few seconds before you begin your reading to formalize or clearly state to yourself what you wish to get from the reading. This will give us the most useful "mental set" for getting the information we need.

We need to know:What information we need;

How detailed the comprehension should be; and
Whether the emphasis should be placed on ideas,
Sequence, specific facts, etc.;
How long we need to retain this information - only
Until a test the next day or for the rest of our lives;
How we use the information - to think with, to write a report, to take a test.

All of these aspects of purpose will influence what we are looking for in our reading. Remember, if we have in mind what we are looking for, we are much more likely to find it.  

What details do we need to remember and for how long is particularly important for guiding note taking or summarizing in a later step.

C. QUESTIONS: A good time to record questions is after your overview and planning purpose. The question should be in the same sequence as they appear in the material, if possible. This does not prevent adding new questions, but it does prevent forgetting about an important question that occurs to you during the overview. Ideally, the headings can be converted into questions which will provide a suitable outline of the important information in the selection. Where this is not the case, the basic interrogatives or who, what, when, why, and how, frequently supply aid in suggesting important concepts in almost all reading selections.

But at this point, we may ask the question, "Why go to all this trouble ... why not just read the selection two or three times?" If we begin with a careful line-by-line reading and then a re-reading, we find that comprehension and retention are not increased; research has shown us that reading with questions in mind and knowing we are going to test ourselves later on (as we do in intensive reading), is superior to reading and re-reading and is less time-consuming. The only time you should re-read is when you have no review notes, and when, at a much later date, you need to remember information that you cannot recall. However, re-reading of parts on which you cannot answer in the testing step of intensive reading is always a good idea. YOU HAVE TO RESPOND TO LEARN.

D. READING: The most familiar technique and the heart of intensive reading is to read carefully and thoughtfully.

Reading here means not only the familiar line-by-line reading, but line-by-line reading that is guided by our purpose and questions. Also be sure and read the material you covered while obtaining an overview.

Also remember that with any technique and purpose, the rate of reading is varied, depending upon the difficulty and familiarity of the material. Speed may be reduced by the thought given to organizing the information, but except for this and the time out to summarize, the rate is like any careful line-by-line reading. The rate must be adjusted so that the desired comprehension is taking place.

E. SUMMARIZING: An important part of summarizing is organizing the ideas and supporting points. This organizing should begin in the reading but should be finalized and expressed in notes. Generally, each paragraph will have one or two ideas or important concepts. Also in summarizing, it is important to state in your own words and aloud, the points you wish to remember. The most effective type of summarizing which lends itself to both organizing and testing is an outline of questions reflecting major ideas and concepts. The subpoints are indented so as to show clearly that they are related to the main point in a supporting role.

By using questions as headings, the outline can be started before reading on the basis of the overview. It allows the answers to the questions guiding the reading to automatically be summarized as a few brief points. A topic that does not lend itself to the question style can be included as a statement.

To provide answers to the questions, you should write cues (hints) to remind you of everything you need to remember. Don't write down every point; just cues that will bring the points to mind.

There are other techniques you may use. One is underlining. However, its faults tend to outweigh its value. You may tend to underline too much or you probably won't organize the thoughts expressed in the different key sentences as you go along. The key concepts may be implied but never stated in such a manner where they can be underlined with efficiency.

If you must underline, restrict yourself to clear, concise definitions or statements.

Another technique is making marginal notes and questions. You may (with practice and discretion), elaborate, raise questions, and relate and organize certain important concepts or points in this manner.

The hazard to be avoided with both these techniques is over doing it! By over doing it, you waste time, generally confuse the key issues, and hinder (rather than facilitate) your learning.

F. TESTING: The next step is testing yourself. It is vital that you recall rather than just recognize the answers. This means that you test yourself with an essay or a fill-in-the-blank type test. This simply means you must "produce" the answer; just as you often have to in class. This testing seems to "set" or "fix" the information more firmly in your mind so that you will retain it better. Re-reading and other forms of recognition do not produce as high a level of retention.

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