What to do after reading a text

You’ve just finished a piece of interesting reading, have highlighted interesting sections and noted down the main points – but there are some important things to still do if you want to maximise your learning. Reviewing, interpreting, analysing and evaluating are important in what you might call the second part of active reading. That is, the part after highlight and initial note taking.

These headings are also terms found in essay questions, so the grappling with them also means that you are more liable to be prepared when you have to answer an essay or exam questions. There is also a reason you might remember the answer you gave to an essay question, rather than some other text that you read around the same time. This is because in following the process, you are making the ideas yours.

Review

Reviewing is about looking at the texts and, perhaps more importantly, your notes on the text. It is at this point that you start to organise information. For instance, you might note that a particular concept is quite important to the text and appears often. If so, it is worth collating those notes under a single heading so as to try and understand it better.

Preparing something of a genealogy of the term and writing its main characteristics can help in the future when you try to come back to it, for instance. Brainstorms and other visual aids are also useful.

Interpret

Interpreting is about probing the main ideas of a text. As above, you might have a concept that you have decided is important and noted its characteristics – It might now be a good time to try to interpret what it means. Questions pertaining to the author’s intentions, how it relates to other texts, or how you might be able to relate it to yourself, are good ways to begin interpreting.

Analysing

Analysing is essentially about looking at a text with a critical eye. It is also about ascertaining its main ideas and structure. Separating out the ideas and then seeing how they relate with each other is looking under the hood, if you like, in order to see how it all fits together. Looking at the internals of a text can bring to light any contradictions, strengths and weaknesses.

This can be done as you go along but there is a value in doing this at the end.

Evaluation

Even though all the prior steps don’t necessarily lead to evaluation, reviewing, interpreting and analysing certainly help in making an evaluation. Bringing all these parts together to try and make an assertive comment about it.

Was the text reliable? Did the parts fit with the whole? Are the concepts useful? Was the author’s style persuasive? All these questions, and more, will allow you to start forming a judgement on the matter at hand.

You can think of it as building on your interpretation in order to create new meaning. Your evaluations will then no doubt contribute to essay and exam answers. Once you have evaluated, you are liable to be more flexible in the application of the particular idea, or strand of thought because you will be far more familiar with it.

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