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Library Research: Relating to Your Reading

A general overview of library research.

Saint Paul College Library

Relating to Your Reading

When you walk into a classroom, you don't come in empty-handed. You come into the room carrying your own perspectives, influenced by the experiences and interactions you've had throughout your life; every movie you've watched, every board game you've played, and every podcast you've listened to is brought into the classroom with you. Research overwhelmingly indicates that it is easier to learn something new when we can attach it to something we already know, but when learning a new subject, it can be challenging to know where and how the pieces fit together. 


Questions to ask yourself before reading:

What do I already know about this subject? 

  • Make a list of everything you know or have heard about the subject, whether you know exactly how it relates or not. This list can be made of concrete facts, pop culture references, things you know from personal experience, colors, feelings, etc.
  • You never know what is going to help you make connections, so it's best to jot down everything.  

What do I know about the author?

  • Consider what you know or what you can learn about this person. Why do you think they wrote this?

Why am I reading this?

  • There are millions of novels, scholarly articles, and websites in the world. Why do you think your instructor chose this one? (If you chose the reading for your personal research, you should still answer the question. What made you choose this specific source?)
How does this relate to the class subject/other readings I've been assigned?


Questions to ask yourself after reading: 

Whose voices did I hear?

  • Consider the people you heard from while reading. These can be researchers, historians, residents of a neighborhood, police officers, scientists, politicians, or more. You'll often hear from more than one group, especially in nonfiction books. Consider race and demographics as well (white, Black, over 65, under 21, etc.)
  • Did any of the perspectives surprise you?

Whose voices are missing? 

  • Is there a person/group of people whose perspective on the subject is missing?
  • What can you conclude from this?

What items from the "list of things I know" were relevant to my reading?

  • Did anything surprise you? 

Can I summarize this reading using words I use everyday? 

  • Readings can be dense and use very specific language. By summarizing in your own words, you're more likely to remember the content of the article. (If you've learned new words from this piece, that's great! Go ahead and use those too.)