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{March 6, 2010}   Strategies for analysing documents
What does analysing documents entail?

Reading comprehension is not a passive skill. You need to think about the vocabulary you know, and simultaneously think through the context you’re reading in order to understand the text. You need to be able to isolate the important information in the text from what comes before and after it. Analysing documents and then responding to what you have read is definitely an active process.

Problems incurred

Some people feel more confident with written English than spoken because you have more time to understand. However, lack of time can also be a problem when reading a professional document. Here are some possible difficulties you may have with analysing documents:

  • New words
  • Familiar words in unfamiliar contexts
  • Complex sentences
  • Authentic documents and not ones written for language learners
  • Documents written by other non-native speakers with less than perfect English
  • Time pressure to understand the content and respond
  • Outside factors making reading harder such as interruptions from phone calls or general office noise
  • Size of document may be large and so the information you need may be difficult to find

Ways to overcome these problems

Here are some solutions to the above problems:

  • Have a reason for reading as this will make the reading process focused and more effective.
  • Use your outside knowledge to assist your understanding. Think about what you already know about the subject and don’t become so involved in the details of the text that you forget to use your common sense.
  • Take the phone off the hook to help you concentrate.
  • Use reading strategies you use in your mother tongue when reading texts in English.
  • Don’t let your reading become blocked by not understanding individual words.
  • Use the non-linguistic features of the text to help your understanding. These include numbers, dates, pictures, document source etc
  • Become familiar with text types so that you are prepared for what you will read. For example, know that a memo has an opening statement and will end by asking you to respond or take action.

Reading strategies to work on

1. Before analysing a document find out about referencing in texts. This is when words, sentences and paragraphs are linked in a text, or some words substituted for others, to avoid repetition. Knowing rules about words like ‘such’ ‘this/that’ ‘these’ etc will help you decode the logic of a document. Also consider building your vocabulary by learning expressions not just single words.

2. When you receive a document try glancing through it, looking for the information you need. If you do this before attempting to read the whole document you could save yourself precious time later. Once you have found the section you want to read, read it quickly to get a general understanding. Don’t try and understand every word. To help break up the text you could paraphrase small sections of the document as you read. This will help you recap and reformulate ideas.


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