Here's a range of methods for approaching
a complex text. You may find different methods are helpful on different
occasions. Try some and see if they work for you.
When you find a text has quite a few difficult words or words
which are new to you, try to read it once through fairly quickly.
You may find that you understand the words better at the end.
When a text is full of difficult words, try to limit how
many you look up in a dictionary. For example, you might only
look up a word when it has been used three times. (A difficult
word that is only used once or twice is probably not important.)
If you are having trouble understanding long sentences, try
re-writing each long sentence as several shorter ones. You
will probably find you then understand what the author is
After reading a bit that you think is important, try to write
down the main points that the author made. This will help
you to clarify your understanding and to remember better.
As you read, highlight key points. Look at these again when
you get to the end.
Read the whole text once quickly. Then re-read it slowly.
Ignore (sometimes) bits that you do not understand - come
back to them later. You will often find that they seem much
easier the second time around.
Make up some questions that you would like to be able to
answer after reading the text. These (a) help to make the
text more interesting to you and (b) help you to understand
the text better.
Try to find links between the text and your own interests
Highlight the technical terms that the author is using. Write
sentences using these terms. This will help you to understand
those terms better so that they do not slow down your reading.
Make a card index of the technical terms that the author
is using. Revise from the cards from time to time.
Make spider diagrams as you read. These will help you to
understand the structure of the author's argument. You might
need one or more diagram per chapter.
Make concept maps when you have finished reading. These will
help to consolidate your understanding of the key concepts
that you are learning. You will need a separate map for each
Get an overview of the text by looking at the contents, index,
introduction, headings, diagrams and tables.
When reading a chapter, read the first sentence of each paragraph.
This will give you all the main ideas in most texts.