Active reading is the process of reading something with the intention to understand the material, articulate the main ideas, and evaluate its usefulness.
Simply reading and rereading the words is not the same as active reading. Instead, you have to engage with the text.
One of the best ways to read actively is the SQ3R method.
Step 1: SURVEY. Look over material critically. Read the title and abstract and try to anticipate what the author is going to say. Skim through the article read topic and subtopic headings and sentences. Try to identify the main idea or thesis of the article.
WRITE these notes on the article in order to get an overall idea of the article. This will give you some idea where the article is headed.
Step 2: QUESTIONS. Read through the article quickly and build a question for each heading and subheading in the text selection, and ask any other questions that occur to you. These are questions to think about when you begin to do your close reading. The questions will help you figure out what to do with the information you encounter. You should also circle any words you don't understand or ideas that you find confusing.
WRITE these questions out in the margins or on a separate sheet of paper. Look over the questions. Do you see any patterns? Can you predict any answers?
Step 3: READ. Now read though the article slowly and carefully to answer the questions. Underline or highlight any ideas that answer your questions, or that you think are especially important.
WRITE notes, in your own words, under each question. Make comments to help you remember important ideas.
Step 4: RECALL. Without looking at your notes, try to mentally visualize the most important ideas from the article. What are the main points? Can you put them into your own words without looking back at the article?
Step 5: REVIEW . Look at your questions, answers, and notes to see how well you remembered the information. Are there any ideas that are still confusing or unclear? Would you be able to explain the main ideas of this article to someone who had not read it?
This is an example of an article that has been annotated by hand.