Outcome: Specialized Reading Strategies

Identify Specialized Reading Strategies for Specific Types of Texts, Including Content in Disciplines and Visual Information

New technology offers us many more exciting ways to interact with reading content, whether it’s for work, school, or pleasure.  It also changes the way that we understand what we read, when we move from printed pages to computer screens, as the following excerpt explains.


Embedded hyperlinks in documents or Internet pages have been found to make different demands on the reader than traditional text. Authors, such as Nicholas Carr, and psychologists, such as Maryanne Wolf, contend that the internet may have a negative impact on attention and reading comprehension. Some studies report increased demands of reading hyperlinked text in terms of cognitive load, or the amount of information actively maintained in one’s mind (also see working memory). One study showed that going from about 5 hyperlinks per page to about 11 per page reduced college students’ understanding (assessed by multiple choice tests) of articles about alternative energy. This can be attributed to the decision-making process (deciding whether to click on it) required by each hyperlink, which may reduce comprehension of surrounding text.

On the other hand, other studies have shown that if a short summary of the link’s content is provided when the mouse pointer hovers over it, then comprehension of the text is improved. “Navigation hints” about which links are most relevant improved comprehension. Finally, the background knowledge of the reader can partially determine the effect hyperlinks have on comprehension. In a study of reading comprehension with subjects who were familiar or unfamiliar with art history, texts which were hyperlinked to one another hierarchically (in order of importance) were easier for novices to understand than texts which were hyperlinked semantically (in order of relationships between content). In contrast, those already familiar with the topic understood the content equally well with both types of organization.

Two young men sitting at computers in a lab

This section will address best practices to adopt when reading particular kinds of sources, like math textbooks and online content.

What You Will Learn to Do

  • identify strategies for reading on digital devices
  • identify strategies for reading math, social science, and science texts
  • identify strategies for reading graphics (charts, etc.)

The Learning Activities for This Outcome Include

  • Text: Online Reading Strategies
  • Text: How to Read Graphs
  • Video: Reading Textbooks
  • Self Check: Specialized Reading Strategies
  • Try It: Specialized Reading Strategies