When I think about my own reading, I realize that I am a sucker for bold print, headers, and attention grabbers, such as different fonts from the rest of the text. In school, I have always had to memorize definitions so the words that are bolded are usually important to know. As I am reading, I am usually thinking about three things. First, ‘how does this relate to something I already know about?’, next, ‘does this topic interest me and why?’, and finally, ‘how does this relate to me, or my life?’.
If something I am reading applies to something I already know about, it helps me to think about what I already know about the topic, what I want to know, and where I think the new passage will take me in the reading. I also think about if the topic is interesting to me, probably less consciously than I realize, but if I do think it’s interesting, I am more willing and likely to pay close attention. If I do not feel interested in the topic, I am more likely to skim for the bolded words and get a brief understanding, but maybe not to the fullest extent. When I am interested in a passage, I try to pick up on the small details and sometimes will re-read a paragraph to understand the full context.
Now that I am reading a lot of text for my classes that have to do with my future employment, I am paying a lot more attention to what I am reading than I was, for say, my history class freshman year. These texts relate to me, and will directly affect me, so I know how important to not only be reading it, but also comprehending what it is I read.
I know my reading sounds selective, but I guess I have this disposition after having to read so many different texts for college that I have had to become more careful in how I use my time reading.
I think it’s hard to say you know exactly what is important in a text, especially if the author or publisher does not use any specialty writing techniques, such as bolding, underlining, quotes, or anecdotes. If a text is written in one long paragraph, it can be hard to pick out the author’s emphasis or meaning. So my best suggestion would be to keep an eye out for those writing techniques I mentioned previously.