Detective Work First

Before you begin your assigned reading, look for clues about the piece . . . Preliminary questions will help you stay interested and engaged, and also help you understand the content.

Although it seems simple and straightforward to just pick up a book or an article and start to read your assigned pages, it can be difficult to remember what you just read. If you find yourself running your eyes over text and turning pages, without retaining the information, you have wasted your effort, in spite of your good intentions.

You will learn more in far less time if you ALWAYS PRE-READ. Here are some questions to ask of your assigned reading, to help you become interested, curious and to give a purpose to your reading:

1. Why did my professor assign this? How does it fit into the course and its objectives?
2. Who is the author? Modern scholar? Church father? Feminist theologian?
3. What sort of book/article is it? Summary? Critique? Radical view? Nuance? Primary source?
4. What is the thesis (primary point) of the piece? You can often find this in the table of contents, the preface, the subheadings of each chapter, or the conclusion.
5. Can I understand the content of the writing or do I need to take a step back? If you are completely confused, don't bother to start until you have read some background material, or asked your professor for help.
6. What do I already know about this subject? Where does this fit into that grid?
7. What will I have to do with this material? Take a test? Write a review? Assimilate it as background for a paper? Create a paper outline or study guide as you read, if appropriate.