Active Reading Essays

Mapping the Territory

Reading is an activity integral to the writing process. You may not associate reading with the difficult task of writing a college essay. After all, it seems like a passive activity, something you might do at a café or sitting in an easy chair. But while you can read solely for entertainment, soaking in the plot of a good novel or familiarizing yourself with the latest celebrity gossip, reading also drives the act of writing itself, from the earliest stages onward. Reading can—and will—make you a better writer.

But first, you have to learn how to read in a whole new way, because college-level work requires you to read actively, a skill much different from the kind of reading you have practiced since elementary school. Active reading implies not only attention paid to the text, but also consideration and response. An active reader explores what she reads; she approaches the text as though she has entered an unknown territory with the intention of drawing a map. Indeed, the difference between passive reading and active reading is like the difference between watching a nature documentary and hiking through the wilderness. The film, although entertaining, doesn’t require much exertion from the viewer. By contrast, the hiker has to navigate the trail: she must look out for hazards, read trail signs, and make informed decisions, if she hopes to make it back home.

Before you can write a successful essay, you must first understand the territory you’re about to explore. Luckily, other writers have already scouted the area and logged reports on the terrain. These missives—the articles and books your professors will ask you to read—sketch their findings. But understanding these documents can be a daunting task, unless you know how to interpret them. The following sections detail the most essential strategies for active reading.

A Two-Way Street: Reading as Conversation

Think of every text your instructor assigns as one half of a conversation between you and the writer. Good conversations achieve a balance between listening and responding. This give-and-take process drives human discourse. While one participant speaks, the other listens. But while the listener appears passive on the surface, he’s most likely already preparing his response. He may evaluate what his partner says, testing it for how closely it matches his own ideas, accepting or rejecting part or all of the statement. When he does respond, he expresses his reaction, or asks a question about something he doesn’t yet understand. Active reading mirrors this process closely. An active reader “listens” to the text, evaluating what the writer says, checking to see if it matches or differs from his current understanding of the issue or idea. He asks pertinent questions if something remains unclear, looking for answers in subsequent sections of the text. His final goal, of course, is to make a statement of his own, in the form of the essay he will eventually produce.

Retracing Your Steps: Read Every Text (at least) Twice

In fact, reading is in many ways better than conversation, because, like writing, it is recursive: you can revisit a text over and over, whereas the spoken word, unless recorded, disappears into the past, often along with part—or all—of the message the speaker was attempting to convey. When you read, you can move forward and backward in time, making sure you’ve captured every nuance. You should read the text more than once, first for a general understanding, and then for a detailed analysis; your first read-through may raise questions only a second reading can reveal the answers to.

Marking the Trail: Annotation

An active reader views the text as a living document, always incomplete. She reads with pen in hand, ready to write her observations, her questions, and her tentative answers in the margins. We call this annotation, the act of writing notes to oneself in the blank spaces of the page. It’s not the same as underlining or highlighting, neither of which promotes active reading. A simple line underneath a passage contains no information; it merely indicates—vaguely—that you found a certain passage more important than the surrounding text. Annotation, on the other hand, is a record of your active responses to the text during the act of reading. A simple phrase summarizing a paragraph, a pointed question, or an emphatic expression of approval or disbelief all indicate spirited engagement with the text, which is the cornerstone of active reading.

Pace Yourself: Know Your Limitations and Eliminate Distractions

You can’t hike the Appalachian Trail in a day. Similarly, you can’t expect to sustain active reading longer than your mind and body will allow. Active reading requires energy and attention as well as devotion. Short rest periods between readings allow you to maintain focus and deliberate on what you have learned. If you remain diligent in your reading practice, you’ll find that you can read actively for longer periods of time. But don’t push yourself past the point at which you stop paying attention. If your mind begins to wander, take ten minutes away from the text to relax.  Ideally, you should read gradually, scheduling an hour or two every day for reading, rather than leaving your assignments until the last minute. You can’t hope to gain full or even partial comprehension of a text with a deadline looming overhead.

When and where you read can be as important as how long you read. Plan your reading sessions for hours when your mental energy is at its height—usually during daylight hours. Likewise, you should select an optimal location, preferably one free of distractions. Loud music, the flickering of a TV screen, and the din of conversation tend to divert your attention from the task at hand. Even a momentary distraction, like a quick phone call or a friend asking a question, can interrupt the conversation you are having with your assigned text.

Example of a Definition essay on Social issues about:

creative thinking / active reading / effective writing / skill / time-management

Essay Topic:

The definition and the role of creative thinking, active reading and effective writing in the life of people.

Essay Questions:

How is creative thinking defined? How is creative thinking different from stereotype thinking? What are the benefits of active reading? How does effective writing helps people in their everyday life?

Thesis Statement:

Creative thinking is something that always provides “room for improvement”; creative thinking is the true essence of problem solving, which is so vital in the lives of contemporary people and in the business world.


Creative thinking, active reading and effective writing essay


Table of contents:

1. Definitions of creative thinking, active reading and effective writing.

2. Benefits of each skill.

3. Skill-challenges.

4. Skill-application.


5. Conclusion

Introduction: Definitions of creative thinking, active reading and effective writing. One of the peculiarities of a human brain that has not been reproduced by the computers is creative thinking. The term “creativity” has not been clearly defined yet. However the majority of people understand creativity as the ability to see things in a new and unusual way and find new unique solutions for different problems. Creative thinking is a complete opposition to the stereotyped thinking, which is characterized by the insufficiency of choices while searching possible solutions and by the tendency to approach different problems the same way without any innovations. Creativity converts the process of thinking into a fascinating process and helps to find new ways out of old problems. Nevertheless, creative thinking should not by any means be connected to the intellect of a person1. Creative thinking is usually represented by creative insights. According to Robert Harris ”many creative breakthroughs occur when attention is shifted from one angle of a problem to another. This is sometimes called creative insight”[1]. Creative thinking is something that always provides “room for improvement”; creative thinking is the true essence of problem solving, which is so vital in the lives of contemporary people and in the business world.

Creative thinking is also associated with active reading. Active reading is several steps higher than ordinary reading. This is primarily due to the fact that active reading converts an ordinary reader into an active thinking learner and prevents a person from automatically going through pages without understanding anything. Active reading required active thinking and active thinking is a premise of creative thinking. Basically saying what active reading does it helps people to “focus their attention and think about interpretations and interrelations” of the text they have just read [2]. Active reading requires constant training through learning the contents of the books. What it does it forms a strong base for the coordinated work of the processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Reading and writing have always been strongly linked to each other. So, as the active reading appeared in order to make the best out of the process of reading – effective writing appeared to make the best out of the process of writing. Effective writing is a combination of writing skills used in order to achieve certain goals. Effective writing includes different kinds of papers such as all types of proposals, reports, letters, emails, memos and many others. Effective writing works for the development of an ability to be convincing even in written form. Owing to effective writing a person is able to find a personal style of writing which will the most acceptable and productive for him. Being successful in effective writing means to know the appropriate tone for each existing kind of communications and eliminated everything unnecessary from the writing products. Effective writing may be also viewed as the result or a consequence of active reading as active reading renews the vocabulary and teaches appropriate tones of communications. Therefore, both, active reading and effective writing are phenomena that develop creative thinking. 2. Benefits of each skill. Each of the mentioned above skills and all of them together do bring certain benefits for their “owners”. It goes without saying that creative thinking helps to find extraordinary solutions of ordinary problems. One of the major benefits of creative thinking is that is completely contradicts the standard critical thinking. As new creative ideas always seem weird to the people around a person with creative thinking will be more socially independent and will have a higher self-esteem. Creative thinking is also the key to release from numerous existing solutions-stereotypes and cultural traditions, creating something completely qualitatively new. Creative thinking decreases the person’s anxiety level, due to the fact that it always finds explanations to all the unknown and strange things it faces. Therefore, a person psychologically becomes more confident. Creative thinking constantly brainstorms the mind, which generates new ideas. Among the most important qualities of creative thinking Robert Harris outline major ones: generative, looks for new possibilities, makes a suspended judgment change, is subjective but always has an answer, develops the right brain, works through visualizations and associations producing novelty [1]. Creative thinking also goes through certain analytical stages, which altogether produce the desired final unique solution2.

Active reading also brings significant benefits for its “possessor”. For instance, the notes that are required to be taken while actively reading keep up the person’s concentration and understanding of the information flow, creating a systematic system of knowledge. Active reading and its tips such as underlining and highlighting, noting key words, noting down questions to the text and making final summaries, converts the process of simple reading into the process of learning which is the synonym of active reading. Active reading trains the memory and the ability to create strong intellectual connections between the information that is being perceived. Active reading teaches a person to pick exactly what he needs to know without stopping at unnecessary details in a rather short period of time. Therefore, active reading may be also viewed as a time management technique. It sets the knowledge priorities and helps the reader to obtain the needed information in the most productive possible way.

Effective writing as it has been mentioned before helps to find a definite style for the writer. Nevertheless, it far not the only benefit effective writing brings. It goes without saying that effective writing implies the improvement of knowledge in capitalization, spelling, grammar, punctuation, abbreviation, and others. The other prominent ones are the following: helps to sell ideas, eliminated jargon, eliminated unneeded phrases or sentences which do not reflect and affect the potential result [4]. Effective writing helps to make the final writing “visually appealing” to the respondent. Similar to active reading, effective writing is very helpful in the improvement of the ability to set goals and to achieve exactly the needed result and no other. The writer will benefit from knowing how to set a topic, a thesis and the format of a given paper. Both active reading and effective writing are designed to make a person successful creating creative thinkers.

3. Skill-challenges.

Each skill is a subject to definite challenges that a person trying to learn them may experience. As the best way to analyze the challenges is by providing vivid examples, the author ventures to provide his humble opinion on the topic. It is common knowledge that people in their majority lack assiduousness and persistence when it comes to making something until the end. They seek for fast-relievers. Achieving success in the fields of active reading, effective writing and therefore creative thinking do offer certain challenges that need to be discussed.

Creative thinking requires constant work of imagination and therefore the full-usage of the resources of the brain; creative activity requires hard work. It is very hard to turn off the critical thinking with all its convergent, reasoning and judgment-based nature. Creative thinking is visualization and not words, nevertheless each person is so used to speaking that it is hard just to “imagine” .As this is the primary condition under which creative thinking will start working the author considers it to be the biggest problem he faced while trying to think creatively. Another hard thing in creative thinking is to understand that every single problem has not just a solution but also several possible ways out any situation. The author considers that in order to develop the willingness to create and find new ways the person needs to practice through making himself do the things that he has always done one way – another innovative and creative way. Of course it is hard to forget about the personality types, because it will be much easier for a person with an external type to develop creative thinking owing to their openness to the world around and their ability to perceive and combine the information obtained from it. An internal person would be more critical and therefore have fewer opportunities to add creativity to his everyday life.

Active reading and effective writing require persistence but the speed of their assimilation in the mind of a person completely depends of the individual peculiarities of the person. For instance, the author of the paper needs immediate results in order to stimulate himself for further work. Disorganized people desperately need to learn how to manage their time and to get results rather quickly. So active reading and effective writing are designed to help such people to learn how to manage their time and be successful at home and especially at work. The major difficulties with creative thinking, active reading, and effective writing are that they need constant training. It is very important not to stop. The writer had a similar problem and coped with it through reading books and working on the material that he considered to be highly interesting.

For instance, in order to develop creative thinking he used the technique of “playing put” a problem in person or drawing its scheme, in order to create a demonstrative presentation of the problem. The author also tried the technique of talking aloud with himself offering different solutions from the sides of different imaginary personages.

So, the main way to overcome the challenges of creative thinking is to consciously apply efforts to show originality and bring forth new ideas. Active reading and effective writing are the matter of persistence and constant repetition.

4. Skill-application.

Each of the listed above skills is a guaranteed time-management tool. All three of them are easily applied in everyday life both in personal and professional spheres. The best part that can be taken from all these skills is that they create the base for a hyper-successful career for any person who is able to apply sufficient efforts in order to improve. Creative thinking, active reading and effective writing are the skills that take people away from the banal and boring ideas, away from the standard look at things and lead towards original solutions. Creativity is the quality that is represented I each of these skills and it is creativity that makes the process of thinking fascinating!

Conclusion: This skills can be helpful I personal life. For instance the family does not have enough income to buy that fancy furniture they saw in the store yesterday. If they posses creative thinking they can make the best out of their old furniture: they can paint it, draw something on it, change it is some other way. Another example that may be given is the way the dishes are cooked in the house. If they are made only according to the recipe it is very hard to talk about anything like creative thinking, but if the family conducts experiments with their food, trying to “invent” a new dish – that is a bright sign of creativity. Active reading and effective writing can be helpful, too. Some people have lots of books in the house, but when you start asking them what was in this or that book they fail to answer clearly, knowing the strategies of active reading would have made the answers of these people more clear and intelligent. The same thing with effective writing which in personal life can be used in order to write different petitions, invitations or personal letters. There is no wander that some invitations are made so bad that the guest might even not come. These «domestic» applications of these three skills may create a wonderful base for personal happiness.

Their application in the sphere of professional growth would be irreplaceable. Creative thinkers have always been the most valued workers on any enterprise. A person with a non-standard approach to everything makes a difference for any form and especially for those that deal with advertising goods. A person that can read and what is more important – can understand books connected with his professions may become the best choice for the next appointment of the authorities. Effective writing gin its turn may convert an ordinary employee into a true psychologist that can always achieve the result he wants.


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