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Step 3: Gather data (read and make notes)

Do you read fiction for pleasure? Maybe you read detective novels or action thrillers. What makes you turn each page? What questions do you ask? If the story is exciting or it captures your imagination, you probably ask, ‘What happens next?’ or ‘Who is the murderer?’, and you read on to find answers to your questions.

The experience of reading a text book or a journal article is usually quite different from reading fiction, but when you read for study purposes rather than for pleasure it is just as important to ask questions. When you’re reading to gather information for an essay, instead of asking, ‘What happens next?’ you ask, ‘How does this point relate to my thesis statement?’ or ‘How can I use that point in developing an argument to support my thesis statement?’

Reading as an active experience

To make reading for an essay an active experience, you need to:


Always remember your purpose in reading: gathering information to support your thesis statement with evidence and argument. Here are some details of how you might carry out each of the five activities effectively.


Following are examples of notes taken from three fictitious texts. These notes will be used in the next section (Step 4). The red text represents comments and thoughts regarding these notes.


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