Critical Reading Initiative College of St. Catherine Home

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Contact Us:

  Deborah Churchill
Liberal Arts & Sciences - Mpls
Room 429 Old Main

Terrianne Jones
Occupational Therapy - Mpls
Room 307 Old Main



Critical Reading Initiative
College of St. Catherine – Minneapolis

The purpose of this glossary is to help faculty and staff at the college develop a common language and terminology usage as we strive to promote more effective reading skills in our students. Having a common understanding of the terms and strategies will facilitate conversations about how we encourage reading development in all of our courses. If you have questions, concerns or suggestions for additional terms to include, please contact Deborah Churchill (

Comprehension: surface level understanding of a text. Students can demonstrate this understanding by responding to content or vocabulary questions, identifying and paraphrasing the author’s main ideas, and summarizing or re-stating the author’s message.

Comprehension monitoring: strategies the reader uses periodically while reading to make sure she is understanding and establishing connections with the text. These strategies include questioning, inner voice, and paraphrasing.

Context clues: a vocabulary development strategy in which the reader deduces the meaning of a word by analyzing the context in which it appears.

Critical reading: The application of critical thinking skills to the reading task. The reader evaluates the author’s purpose, credentials, bias, argument, and effectiveness.

Expository text: reading material that is designed to convey information about a topic, to explain or teach. Standard textbooks and journal articles are examples of expository text.

Inner voice (also called the metacognitive conversation): the on-going dialogue that the reader’s mind carries on with the text as she reads. The reader’s inner voice responds or reacts to the text periodically by forming questions, connecting personal experience or prior knowledge, agreeing or disagreeing with a premise, etc. It is a characteristic of skilled readers and should be encouraged in developing readers.

Mapping (also called cognitive mapping or mind mapping): An effective strategy used after reading to improve retention of the material read. Maps are visual representations of textual information. Examples are cluster diagrams, hierarchy or “tree” charts, sequence or “flow” diagrams. Maps can be used effectively to show organizational structure and relationships between elements in the reading.

Paraphrase: The reader re-states the author’s sentence in a more straightforward manner. Readers paraphrase by replacing challenging vocabulary words with more familiar synonyms, simplifying syntax or sentence structure, or dividing a long sentence into multiple shorter sentences. Paraphrasing can be used to demonstrate the reader’s comprehension of the sentence.

Preview (also called survey): A strategy to be used prior to beginning a reading, previewing contributes to reading effectiveness by increasing focus, interest, and purpose. The reader flips through the pages of the text to be read, making observations and forming questions about what’s there: title, author’s credentials, headings, illustrations, bold-face words, information in text-boxes, etc.

Reading process: a purposeful, deliberate approach to reading expository text. It occurs in phases, with targeted strategies occurring in each phase. For example, the P2R method includes a Preview (or “before reading” phase), a Read actively (or “during reading” phase), and a Review (or “after reading” phase). Using a reading process improves both comprehension and retention of information. SQ3R is another well-known reading process (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review), although it has fallen out of favor recently because the application of its steps tends to create a lengthy and somewhat laborious process.

Reading task: This is the reader’s purpose for reading a particular text. The task can be reader-directed or faculty-directed. Examples are reading prior to a lecture for background information, reading to prepare for a class discussion, reading to find source materials for a research paper, reading for pleasure or general interest. Skilled readers vary their reading strategies depending on their purpose for reading. By clarifying the task, readers can choose appropriate reading strategies that will help them achieve their purpose.

Retention: getting key information from a text into long-term memory for later retrieval. Comprehension is a key element, since readers can better remember what they genuinely understand, but most retention strategies are done during the “after reading” phase of the reading process. Strategies include summarizing, outlining, mapping, and reciting.

Scan: A selective reading technique that involves searching for specific information within a text. For example, a reader might scan a chapter on autoimmune diseases in order to find information on lupus erythematosus. She would look at headings and bold face words within the chapter in order to find information on lupus. Scanning is very selective, in which the reader zeroes in on the desired text, and only reads that portion.

Skim: A holistic, rapid reading technique for getting just the main idea of a text.

Word part analysis: A vocabulary development strategy in which the reader analyzes word roots, prefixes, and suffixes in order to arrive at the word’s meaning. This strategy is particularly effective for medical terms that are based on consistent Greek and Latin word parts.

This page was created on 01/20/2004 and last updated on 01/26/2004.

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