With your partner(s), discuss the following:

  1. "The difference between passive reading and active reading is like the difference between watching a nature documentary and hiking through the wilderness." What does this quote mean to you?
  2. What is "active reading"?

As we discussed in Unit 1, the ability to identify main points and clearly summarize a text is an essential academic skill. However, in most college courses, you will be expected to go beyond simply boiling down essential information and reporting on what others have found or claimed. You will be expected to actively engage with a text in order to analyze, evaluate and respond to the ideas presented within it. This critical approach involves asking yourself questions before, as, and after you read:

  • To what extent do I relate to or agree with the ideas presented by the author?
  • What is the author's purpose?
    • Is he/she trying to persuade, provoke, inform, etc?
    • Is he/she objective or biased?
  • How well does the author write?
    • Is the text focused and clear?
    • Does the author present a logical and organized argument?

Considering such things while you read will prepare you for a common college assignment, which is to summarize and respond to a text in the form of a paragraph or a longer composition.

  1. Purpose: (1) Summarize the purpose and main points of a text, and (2) Agree/disagree with, or evaluate the author’s argument.
  2. Audience: The audience is someone who has not read the article/essay you are summarizing. You must provide them with enough information so that they will understand your response to the original text.
  3. Goals:
    • to effectively summarize the key points of an academic text 
    • to provide a focused rhetorical analysis
    • to develop your response using specific examples from the text or from other texts that are relevant to the issue

The Summary

  • is concise, not wordy. A good summary is clear and direct; avoid overly complex or flowery language.
  • is clear to someone who has not read the original essay or article. Always assume the reader is unfamiliar with the material you are summarizing.
  • maintains good paragraph structure, with a topic sentence identifying the title and author, if possible. It must be clear to the reader that he or she is not reading original material.
  • gives the main points and ONLY the main points—only what the reader needs. Try to omit unnecessary details, dates, figures, etc.
  • paraphrases, with no direct quotes from the original source. Do not copy and paste; use your own words.
  • presents the information in the same order as the original, if possible.
  • is objective. Do not include your opinion in the summary.

The Response

  • is composed of your opinions in relation to the article being summarized. This is a fundamental difference between the summary and the response.
  • evaluates the author's essay/article and examines the ideas with which you agree or disagree.
  • identifies the article/essay's strengths and weaknesses in
    • reasoning and logic
    • quality of support
    • organization and style
  • is persuasive and refutes or supports the article you are responding to.