Abstract
Reading skills are paramount in a school setting, as well as a career setting. As you progress through your degree plan and your career, reading will become easier if you use the tools outlined in this paper. For most of us, reading is a burden. We are used to getting the majority of our information through television, a much less inactive activity. This paper may well help you ease the pain of reading lengthy material that is of no particular interest to you. Reading will become less of a burden once you start reading actively. Reading actively, is not as hard as you may think. Now that you know your learning style, you can apply your strengths toward your weaknesses when you read. Read on, and find out how.
Mastering Content
For most of us, reading is a problem. Reading is hard because we read passively and seldom grasp the full content of the text in question. Through this paper, you will learn to use tools that will help read faster and, at the same time, retain more information from reading. You must continue to read actively throughout your studies and your career. Mastering the content of what you read is the key to better writing and better decision making. In the journey of lifelong learning, you will read a mountain of material. Make the most of what you read.


Francis Robinson elaborated a method for mastering content over a half a century ago. It is still used today by educational institutions as a step toward critical thinking because it is effective. He named his method SQ3R. This is an acronym that stands for, Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. As you learn this method, you will adjust it to your own learning style. You may change it in any way that helps you follow it better. Then, it will be your own personal SQ3R.
When you first pick up the material you are about to read, you will survey it. Surveying is simply scanning for items that will give you an idea of what the material is all about. You may compare this step to occasions when you pick up a magazine and scan it for interesting articles before you purchase it. Read the table of contents, chapter titles, and the preface. These items outline the overall message of the material. Also, you will be able to anticipate how long you will have to spend reading and weather the content is interesting to you.

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Reading text that is interesting to you is easier. You can engage your thoughts better when the information you read is of some use to you in a personal level.Knowing beforehand if a subject appeals to you is an advantage that you can use while reading. You will then be able to adjust your technique and get the most out of it, regardless of its appeal to you. Weather you enjoy reading or you despise it, it is something that you will always have to do. Take in consideration that reading one of the pillars of learning.
After you survey the material, ask critical questions about what you gathered from your survey.Asking questions, that you formulate while you read, increases your focus on the material. It now becomes a quest for greater understanding. The questions you ask are unique to your point of view. They may be in reference to what does the author want to say. What does he or she imply. As you go onto the next step, you will find answers to your questions. As you find those answers, you will understand and retain the information much easier.


Now it is time to read. You must read actively. Active reading means engaging with the material through questioning, writing, note taking, and other activities (Carol Carter, Joyce Bishop, Sarah Lynman Kravits, 2002, pg. 151).Look for the main idea of each paragraph. Highlight points of interest and key words. Avoid highlighting too much. Stay focused on the message. Making too many notes or highlighting too large of an area may end up confusing you later own by overloading you with less than useful information.


Now that you have read the information, ask yourself weather all of your original questions were answered. Answer any new questions you may have formulated while reading. Recite your questions and answers or just write them down. Follow your learning style at this stage. Organize your notes and your questions so that you can use them easily. The hard part is done. Now, all there is left is the review.


Reviewing your material is the key to information retention. Read your notes and the highlighted sections of text. Make connections between ideas and note them. Do this often. Do not close your book and expect to remember it all one week later when it is time to discuss it. Review your notes and key highlights several times before you have to put them to use. Do not let the time and efforts you have invested in reading actively go to waste by not reviewing properly. Make the most out of your research.


Now that you have completed all of the basic research steps it is time to plunge into the critical thinking process. Critical thinking does not mean negative but skeptical, exacting, creative (Jane E. Aaron, 2001, pg. 281). You must be able to take what you have read and analyze it to the core. Ask questions that go beyond what you have questioned during your SQ3R phase of research. Ask questions about the message. What does the author say in plain language? What does the author say in between the lines; is it fact or opinion? And finally, gather your thoughts. What do you think?
Analyze all aspects of the text and the author. Make notes about the tone of the author and the messages put forth. Write a short explanation of what the authors intent is. Challenge the information the author gives you. If information is presented as a fact by the author, analyze the supporting evidence. Is the supporting evidence a fact? Critical thinking is an approach. When you read critically, you put your own spin on the message and therefore learn from it.


Reading alone is not learning. Taking the information you read and accepting it as is will not allow for growth. It is downright crippling. Reading critically gives you an insight that you could not reach otherwise. Not fully understanding the messages that we are bombarded with each day is the root of all problems. At 83 years of age, Angelo Ciardiello says it best on one of his many publications. Take a deep breath! You can drown yourself with problems if you dont ask questions. (1998, Vol 42, pg 210).


Critical thinking extends our grasp of the truth when we read or listen to any media. Media is the carrier of information. It can be a book, a magazine, the radio or television. The news media is the most criticized for its implied truth. Beware of taking opinion as absolute fact just because the media presenting it is trusted. Being media literate simply means that you take in the plain message, its content, and the authors implied message applying your own thoughts and ideas to it.
After researching different articles for this paper, I found a wide array of facts and opinions. I tried to apply SQ3R to what I was reading. In some ways it worked for me, in others it did not. I found out that some of those things I already did systematically. I always survey what I am about to read. I always read the table of contents and highlight topics. I make mental notes of contradicting information and items that dont make sense for later review.
SQ3R is a sound system in many ways. I believe that it is useful for everyone, as long as it is adjusted to each individuals particular learning style. By itself, it is lacking. In conjunction with critical thinking and self awareness, it is a powerful tool for lifelong learning. A full understanding of the author, the message, and the implied message are key items for successful research.
Critical thinking is one of the things I have been doing for a while. As I read a book, watch a movie or listen to a song I always think of what the intent of the author is. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is in between the lines. Most times it is plainly directed toward the masses for acceptance and good reviews. Although it is a financially sound approach, I find it regretful.There is too much opinion and not enough fact out there.


My learning style is a jumble of different things. I have found that I am able to learn from various sources. I do consider myself analytic and find it a healthy way to get to everyday decision making. This chapter was a healthy infusion of very useful information. Only now, do I realize that I have been doing some things right. It has also shown me that I was lacking in some areas. I can now adjust my research system to a more effective process. I feel enlightened.
Conclusion
This chapter brings me to a very short and concise conclusion. Understanding what you read fully will help you learn. By understanding and then criticizing, you open doors to unexplored territories. As related to the classroom, there is no better way to study mandatory materials.In the end, when you are asked to present your material, there will be no hang ups. You will be completely familiar with the information and will have no problems making your observations, because you know the material that you are talking about. You will realize how good it feels to be able to discuss or present material that you completely understand.


References
Aaron, J. E. (2002). The Little, Brown compact handbook (Rev. Custom 4th ed., University of Phoenix. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.


Dalton M., Hoyle D., Watts M., (2000). Human Relations 2nd Edition. Mason, Ohio: South Western.


Carter C., Bishop J., Lynman S., (2002). Keys to College Studying: Becoming a Lifelong Learner. University of Phoenix Custom Edition E-text. Retrieved July 30. 2004 from the University of Phoenix, Resource Web site: https://mycampus.phoenix.edu/secure/resource/resource.asp.


Ciardiello, Angelo V., (1998). Did You Ask a Good Question Today? Alternative cognitive and Metacognitive Strategies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy; Vol. 42 Issue 3, Retrieved August 8, 2004 from https//weblinks2.epnet.com/citation.asp?tb=&_ug=+562A4376
Miller L., Connelly M., Critical Thinking Core Concepts. Retrieved August 8, 2004, from https//www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us/Longview/ctac/corenotes.htm