Reading Strategies for Complex Texts

  1. Number the paragraphs.
    A simple way to cite and refer to the text is to number each paragraph in the left-hand margin. When you refer to the text again and need to jot down notes, you can easily locate the information in the text.

  2. Separate the text into easy-to-read sections.
    Breaking up the text into smaller sections helps to organize the ideas and information. One way of grouping paragraphs that contain the same or similar ideas is to use horizontal lines to separate them from the rest of the text. (See the sample text at the end of this document.) When you read the text again, this chunking technique will help you better understand the structure and elements.

  3. Underline or circle important text.
    Think about the information you want to take from the text. Look for that information in the text and underline or circle those areas. Look for these key types of information:
  • definitions
  • the main idea
  • repeated ideas
  • names of people or places, action verbs, and figurative language

  1. In the left margin, jot down the meaning of each paragraph.
    In the left margin, briefly summarize each chunk of text (typically, in 10 words or fewer).

  2. In the right margin, write down your analysis of each paragraph.
    In the right-hand margin, analyze the information in each chunk of text using one of the following techniques, depending on text content:
  • Use an action verb to describe what the author is doing. Be specific.
  • Represent the information using a visual organizer.
  • Ask questions about the text.


Use the following example as a guide: