Learning Objectives

  • Use questioning as a reading strategy

Being an active reader means that you should be actively thinking about and interacting with the text you read, as if it were a conversation. Just like a conversation includes a back-and-forth dialogue between two speakers, when you read a text, there should be a dialogue between you and the author. Imagine that you were in an argument with a friend. While they speak, you’d be thinking about what they are saying while also formulating a response in your own mind, or thinking of questions to counter the things they are saying. When you read, you similarly want to think of it as a conversation, where you think about what the author is saying while developing your own thoughts and questions about what you read. Asking questions is an excellent way to think critically about a text and to be an engaged reader.

Before Reading

a man reading

Figure 1. Asking questions about a text helps you to stay engaged with the reading material.

Before beginning to read, you may ask:

  • What is your purpose for reading?
  • What do you predict the text will be about?
  • How do you feel about the topic?
  • What biases might you have about the topic because of your feelings towards it?
  • What do you already know or think you know about the topic?
  • What do you need to know about the topic?
  • What do you want to know about the topic?
  • What do you predict the text will tell you about the topic?

During Reading

While you read, you may construct questions using one of these six basic question types:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

For example, you might ask:

What does the author mean by _____?
How does this relate to _____?
Why is this _______?

Or you may make statements such as:

I don’t understand_____.
I was confused by _____.

After Reading

After reading, ask questions to help you process and reflect on the material.

  • What did you learn?
  • Is there anything that was unclear? Write down some guide questions and go back and reread difficult passages with these questions in mind.
  • Did you find what you needed? If not, what else do you need to know?
  • Did you find the author’s style persuasive? Why or why not?
  • Do you agree with what you read? Why or why not?
  • How does what you read compare to other things you’ve read on this topic?
  • What ideas stuck with you? Which ones do you want to investigate more?

Watch It

This video gives an overview of the types of questions you should ask while reading.

You can view the transcript for “Questioning” here (opens in new window).

Try It


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