Tips on Previewing Any Type of Writing

Effective Previewing Tips

Many students tend to dive into an academic text and start reading in a hurry, which is completely counterproductive. Instead of doing so, when you read for academic purposes, it is always recommended to read with specific goals in mind. This way, you will be able to concentrate more on the proper elements of reading and eliminate wasting time on things that are not meant for your purposes.

The main reading goals of every student depend upon the course he/she is taking and the paper he/she is working on. However, it is always better to spend a couple of minutes previewing a text before starting to read, in order to get an idea about what is significant for you in this piece of writing. Here is a basic technique that you can use for most texts. Not every question is relevant for every text, and you may also find extra questions to ask yourself.

  1. Read the title. Never skip it! The purpose of the title is to orient the reader and describe the central concepts of the text.
  2. Think about the subject matter and ask yourself the following questions. Do you know anything about this topic already? When and where did you get this information? Is it somehow linked to your personal experience? Do you already have a specific standpoint about some aspects of this topic?
  3. Who is the author of this text? Do you know anything about him or her?
  4. Where was this text initially published? What type of publication is this? Does it fit your field of study? Who is the target audience for this particular piece of writing? What do you think the audience would expect to find in it?
  5. When was this text initially published? What is the importance of this time period in this study area? Is the text of this publication historical or current? Maybe it is outdated? What were the main events or theoretical trends around the time this piece of writing was composed?
  6. Look through the chapter titles or the headlines in the article. Do you see the general progression of ideas in them?
  7. Why did your teacher assign this particular text? How does it fit into your course? What kinds of ideas and facts are you expected to learn or retain from this text?