Basic Tools and Concepts

How to Be an Active Reader

  • Read slowly and re-read when necessary
  • Use a dictionary
  • Use a pen, not a highlighter, and make marginal notes
  • Reconstruct the rhetorical text by asking yourself questions as you read
  • Mentally continue the conversation with the author after you have finished reading
  • Translate difficult passages into your own words
  • When reading arguments (including court opinions) read first as a believer, understand the author’s claim and support; then read as a skeptic, asking questions about the author’s argument and reasoning

For further explanation of these points see Ramage & Bean, Writing Arguments (4th Ed 1998).