CompFAQ/Difficult Reading

From Gerald R. Lucas
📝 English Composition Writing FAQ 11011102📖

Reading Challenging Texts Without Frustration

College is all about challenge. One of those challenges will likely come in the form of dense texts. These texts can be cryptic, difficult to understand, and frustrating to read. However, learning how to read challenging texts is a critical skill that will benefit you throughout your academic career and beyond.

Reading challenging texts can be a daunting task for all college students. Whether it’s a dense academic article or a complex literary work, it’s easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed. However, learning how to read and engage with difficult texts is an essential skill for college students. In this post, we’ll explore some strategies for reading challenging texts without getting frustrated.

Break It Down

One of the most effective strategies for reading challenging texts is to break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Instead of trying to read an entire article or book in one sitting, try breaking it up into smaller sections. You might also consider using a highlighter or pen to mark important sections or passages as you read.

For example, if you’re reading an academic article, start by reading the abstract and introduction. Then, focus on the headings and subheadings to get an idea of the article’s main arguments. Finally, read each section one at a time, taking notes as you go.

Look up Unfamiliar Terms

Challenging texts often contain specialized vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Always look up unfamiliar terms or concepts as you read. This will not only help you understand the text better, but it will also expand your knowledge and vocabulary.

If you’re reading a literary work, consider keeping a dictionary nearby to look up any unfamiliar words. You might also consider reading a summary or analysis of the work before you begin reading it to help you understand the context and themes.

Eliminate Distractions

Put your phone away. Turn off the radio. Get away from the noise. Have an espresso. By eliminating distractions, you give yourself a space to engage the material with more focus and clarity. It won’t kill you not to check your feeds for fifteen minutes, will it?

Take Breaks

Reading challenging texts can be mentally fatiguing, so it’s important to take breaks when needed. If you find yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed, take a few minutes to step away from the text. Take a walk, get a snack, or do something else to clear your mind. When you return to the text, you’ll be more refreshed and better able to engage with it.

Engage with the Text

One of the keys to reading challenging texts is to actively engage with the material. This means asking questions, making connections, and drawing conclusions as you read.

If you’re reading an academic article, for example, ask yourself questions like “What is the author’s main argument?” or “What evidence does the author use to support their argument?” If you’re reading a literary work, consider the author’s use of symbolism, metaphor, or other literary devices.

Seek Help if Needed

Finally, don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re struggling to understand a challenging text. Talk to your professor or a Writing Center tutor if you need assistance. You might also consider forming a study group with classmates to discuss the text and share insights and ideas.

Reading challenging texts can be intimidating, but with the right strategies and mindset, it can also be rewarding. By breaking down the text, looking up unfamiliar terms, taking breaks, actively engaging with the material, and seeking help when needed, you’ll be better equipped to read and understand challenging texts.

Exercise: Tackle that Challenging Text
  1. Choose a challenging text that you’ve been assigned to read for class.
  2. Before you begin reading, take a few minutes to preview the text. Skim the headings, subheadings, and any bolded or italicized words. This will give you an idea of the text's structure and main points.
  3. Set a goal for your reading session. For example, you might aim to read a certain number of pages or to understand a specific concept or argument.
  4. As you read, take notes. Write down any questions, comments, or insights that come to mind. This will help you stay engaged with the text and remember important information.
  5. If you encounter a word or concept that you don’t understand, don’t panic. Try to use context clues to figure out the meaning. If you’re still stuck, look up the word or concept in a dictionary.
  6. Take breaks as needed. If you find yourself getting frustrated or overwhelmed, take a short break. Stand up, stretch, and take a few deep breaths. Then, return to the text with a fresh perspective.
  7. After you finish reading, reflect on what you’ve learned. Write a brief summary of the main points, and jot down any questions or comments that you have. This will help you retain the information and prepare for class discussions or assignments.
Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 08-27-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬