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Reading like a Researcher: Steps for Close Reading

How to Close Read

Once you have identified your sources, get the most out of them by re-reading using the steps below.

1. Number the paragraphs

One simple way to cite and refer to the text for discussion or note taking is to number each paragraph, section or stanza in the left hand margin. Then you will be able to state which paragraph you are referring to when speaking or in order to find a direct quote, data or other information when drafting a paper. Also during discussion, the rest of the class will be able to quickly find the line being referred to. 

4. Annotate in Left Margin: What is the author SAYING?

In the left margin, summarize each chunk. Write summaries in 10-words or less. The chunking allows you to look at the text in smaller segments and summarize what the author is saying in just that small, specific chunk

Example of Close Reading Annotations

2. Chunk the Text

Breaking up the text into smaller sections (or chunks) makes the page much more manageable. Do this by drawing a horizontal line between paragraphs to divide the page into smaller sections.
For example, chunk paragraphs 1-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9-12 when paragraphs 1-3 may be the hook and thesis statement, while 6-8 may be the paragraphs where the author addresses the opposition. It is important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to chunk the text, as long as you can justify why you grouped certain paragraphs together.

5. Annotate in the Right Margin: Dig deeper into the text

For each chunk: 

·     Use a power verb to describe what the author is DOING. (For example: Describing, illustrating, arguing, etc..) Note: Don't just write “Comparing” and be done. What is the author comparing? A better answer might be: “Comparing the character of Montag to Captain Beatty”.
·     Represent the information with a picture. This is a good way for you to be creative and to visually represent the chunk with a drawing.
·     Ask questions. Learn how to ask questions that dig deeper into the text. For example, what is missing for the author's arguments? What is the flow of POWER? Who are the marginalized groups? etc.

3. Underline and Circle with Purpose

Underline and circle very specific things. Think about what information you want to take from the text, and look for those elements. What you circle and underline may change depending on the text type.
For example, when studying an argument, underline “claims”, belief statements that the author is making. You may discover quickly discover that the author makes multiple claims throughout the argument.
When studying poetry, underline the imagery you find throughout the poem.
Circling specific items is also an effective close reading strategy. Circle “Key terms” in the text. Key terms are words that: 1. Are defined. 2. Are repeated throughout the text. 3. If you only circled five key terms in the entire text, you would have a pretty good idea about what the entire text is about.
Also circle the names of sources, power verbs, or figurative language.
By being specific when you want underline or circle, you will focus your attention on the text much better than just “underlining important information”.


Allam, Court. “Five Close Reading Strategies to Support the Common Core.” ITeach. ICoach. IBlog., Court Allam, 11 June 2012,