Even if you take primarily face-to-face classes in college, you’ll likely find that a significant amount of the reading you’ll have to do comes from online sources: articles on the web, online library databases, and e-books.
The academic reading process of previewing, active reading, summarizing, and reviewing can be used to read these online materials, just like any other text. However, effective online reading takes time and practice, and you need to carefully consider your approach.
Read on for a list of tips that can help you successfully complete your online reading.
1a. Eliminate Online Distractions
In addition to the usual distractions found in a space, like people, cell phones, and televisions, online readers can be easily distracted by computer features, such as games, instant messaging, and social media sites.
Shut these programs off, and make sure your environment stays focused. You can even download tools to block programs that might cause distractions for a set period of time to help you maintain your willpower.
1b. Set a Time Limit
Reading from a computer screen can cause eye strain, so plan to read for shorter periods of time.
EXAMPLERead for about 30 minutes and then take a 10 minute break away from your monitor.
Use the time in between reading sessions to think about what you just read and identify the key points or themes.
1c. Identify Why You Are Reading
Perhaps you are looking for sources of information for an assignment or paper. Maybe you need some background information on a topic. Or maybe you need to learn about a specific subject matter for a course. Knowing why you are reading will help you decide exactly what strategies you should use.
If you are clear on your purpose but do not have a study guide or assignment to guide your reading, you may find it helpful to generate some personal study questions to focus your efforts.
EXAMPLEIf you were studying interpersonal communication in the criminal justice field, you could ask, "What are the most important interpersonal communication skills? Why are they important? How can these skills be developed?"
Record these questions in your notes and refer to them as you read.
1d. Preview Before You Read
Previewing the title, headings, and subheadings of a document will give you a better sense of its content and organization, as well as make you aware of what you already know about the topic.
You can then make an informed choice about:
Whether you choose to use paper or a computer program, it is important to record important ideas for future reference. Have a pen and paper readily available, or open a blank Word document so that you are prepared to take notes once you start reading.
Note-taking helps you understand ideas and ensure you have the material for later reference. Be sure to record ideas in point form and in your own words, and experiment with different note-taking strategies to find one that best suits your needs.
If you feel you might need the information for an assignment, record the document’s reference information next to the notes you created. Reference information typically includes a source's author, title, publisher, and year and place of publication. This step is important since you must cite all the references you draw on for assignments and papers. It's easier to do this step now rather than later when you may have forgotten the website address.
1f. Read Difficult Material Out Loud
Sometimes it's helpful to hear what you are reading, especially if the material is complex or difficult to understand.
Study in a space where you can read aloud to yourself. Alternatively, you can ask a friend, family member, or classmate to review complex material with you.
When two people look at information together, they can usually make sense of difficult material.
Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Online Reading Tips" tutorial.