How to Read Academic Texts?

Read the short paragraph below and determine the writer’s purpose and intended readers.

The following anecdote illustrates the power of clear vision:

Many years ago, several researchers at one of the Ivy League schools in the United States conducted a now-famous study among the members of the graduating class. Foremost in their study was to find out the plan of action of the students after leaving the university. The study found out that only about 3% of the class had a clear plan—not expressed in 50 pages at that time—but one that reflected their thoughts about the future, articulated on paper and constantly reviewed. After 30 years, the researchers contacted the surviving members of the class to analyze the life they’ve had in terms of their life goals and progress. The researchers found out that the 3% who had a clear vision of what they aspired to be and do had a net worth which outweighed the net worth of the 97% of the class who did not have a clear plan for the future.

Guide Questions:

  1. Do you think writers are consciously aware of their intended readers and purpose each time they write?
  2. Is it possible for writers not to have anybody in mind when writing an article?

In Lesson 1, you were introduced to academic writing—its structure and characteristics. In this lesson, you will learn more about academic texts. In the process, you will learn to identify the writer’s tone, purpose, as well as the relevance of the text. In the following academic text, take note of the writer’s tone.

READ: The One Thing You Need

Understanding Academic Text

Any piece of writing comes with a purpose, whether it is stated explicitly or not. As a discerning reader, it is your task to be able to identify it. The short article titled “The One Thing You Need” is clear about its intent: to inform readers—you—to be equipped with skills that remain necessary despite the challenges of an increasingly competitive and complex future. In most essays, as it is in this article, this information is stated in the thesis statement. If you analyze the article in terms of its purpose, tone, and relevance, this is what you will glean from it:

Purpose: to inform the readers that the job market is going to be tougher in the coming years

Tone: serious, academic

Relevance: as a reminder to future job-seekers

Determining the Writer’s Purpose

To Inform

Academic writing seeks to inform, to teach, to add to the reader’s knowledge by way of new ideas. Articles that seek to inform are often serious in tone, and are unmistakably academic in their intent to impart learning. Note how the following article consists of ideas like those found in a news article.

A three-day retooling seminar titled “Navigating the Path towards Excellence” was held last December 5-7, 2017 at the Blessed Garrido Padua, OP Building.

Aimed at providing the senior high school faculty with a fresh perspective on current trends and future innovations in 21st-century teaching and learning, the seminar boasted of topnotch speakers, both considered stalwarts in their respective fields: Dr. Elizabeth Paredes, an educator and a published author and Dr. Charlemagne Ty, a SEAMEO grantee, scientist, and mathematician.

Dr. Paredes shared her expertise on Classroom-based Assessment and Test Construction while Dr. Ty expounded on “Issues and Challenges in the Implementation of PETA (Performance Task) and Rubrics Making”. Both speakers gave participants time for the open forum and the sharing session.

Emphasizing the importance of tests in determining what students have learned, Dr. Paredes reiterated the importance of constructing tests that are valid, reliable, fair, and practical. Further, she pointed out the teachers’ role in preparing students for real-life tasks in the context of their future careers.

The second seminar topic focused on performance tasks and rubrics making and emphasized that assessment is one of the important competencies of teachers. Dr. Ty claimed that teachers should be skilled in developing valid grading procedures and communicating these assessment results to students, parents, and lay audiences.

To Entertain

Academic writing that seeks to entertain may take the form of creative nonfiction whose intent—in addition to telling a story—would be to state a narrative in an academic way. Writing that takes this form uses the conventions of formal writing while writing about a personal experience. In the following example, although the experience being narrated is personal, it is straightforward and follows grammar conventions.

I was 13 when I first turned to writing as an escape from boredom and loneliness. Even then, I thrived on solitude and found it easier to articulate my thoughts on paper than to verbalize them. My writing during this phase was nothing more than mere scribbling: purple verses with a profusion of grand words, journal entries bordering on the melodramatic. My writing during this phase was more therapeutic and cathartic than anything. For instance, whenever my mother scolded me, I would write about it in my journal instead of telling my sister or best friend about it. By the time I was 15, I had accumulated several journals made from recycled bond paper which I tied together with an abaca twine, and whose cover I adorned with pictures of movie stars.

To Persuade

Persuasive writing aims to influence readers to take a particular stance or belief. This form of writing uses persuasive techniques such as illustration, as well as cause-and-effect to convince readers. In the following short article, note how the writer tries to dissuade you from eating canned food.

The Healthier Choice

Some of us may have gone to the grocery to get our stash of food and realize that at least three-fourths of what we brought home are instant noodles, canned goods, cured meat and chips. These foods normally don’t require cooking and can be eaten as soon as they have been opened, making them a convenient choice for people who maintain a busy lifestyle and have no time to cook. They also last longer so you don’t have to worry if that can of tuna has gone uneaten for months.

The secret to long shelf life is preservatives. But constantly bombarding your body with foods that are rife with these can be destructive. Fresh products are obviously the healthier choice because you are in control of what you put in. There is also no need to add preservatives since fresh food is meant to be consumed right away. However, it requires preparation time, and if you’re a busy person, you would rather reach for those instant noodles. Cooking can also be expensive—preparing a pasta dish will cost more than a can of tuna.

So if canned goods are bad, and making your own food eats up more time and resources, what is the best thing to do for people who spend most of the time at work? For one, preserved goods aren’t made to poison people; they are still food and go through the standards. They won’t end up in the grocery shelves if the amount of chemicals in them exceeds safe levels. Go ahead and have them, but remember to have them in moderation. Take time as well to check the food nutrition labels so you can make more healthful choices. And if you are too busy to cook, you can always have those fruits that are ready to eat. Grab a banana or an apple on the way to work, or have a bunch of grapes to satisfy your cravings for an afternoon snack. However you do it, taking the route to a healthy diet is always the better choice if you want to reap the benefits of overall health and well-being for many years to come.

To Inspire

Another aim of writing would be to inspire. To inspire means to uplift, to make someone feel better or be enlightened. This form of writing aims to reach out to its readers regardless of religious affiliation. Without being hardcore religious, this form of writing explores themes that resonate most readers. In the following example, note how the writer tries to make the readers realize a fundamental truth about self-love and contentment.

How would you fare when compared with someone? Are there people you hold in high stead because they are richer, stronger, more intelligent? What is it about them that makes you feel less intelligent or less accomplished?

Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said “comparison is the thief of joy.” In the words of Desiderata, “If you compare yourself with someone, you will end up feeling vain or bitter.” When we compare ourselves with those who have less, our ego is gratified; but if it’s with others who have more, we end up feeling disappointed. Is your self-esteem like a leaf being tossed by the wind? Is it only stable as the person with whom you are being compared?

Remember that each of us is unique. We each have a talent unlike that of others, and we will be held accountable for how we use our gifts. You and I—we are all being called to develop our gifts in the best way we know how. Our comparison should be with ourselves, and how well we use our gifts from. day to day—not how we fare when compared with others.

Determining the Writer’s Tone

Each time you read, do you try to determine the writer’s tone? Are you aware that every piece of writing uses a particular tone? Most often, tone is explicit. As a reader, you should be able to detect it. Other times however, a piece of writing may try to hide its tone, and the tone might be identified only subtly. The writer’s tone may be formal, casual, sarcastic, condescending, or angry.


The tone used by the writer complements the subject and purpose for which it is written. This tone is used in academic writing to distinguish it from informal types of writing that use colloquial or slang expressions such as blogs, personal letters or essays.


A more casual tone may be used by the writer for non-academic topics. Because this tone is more conversational, it is more favored by readers who prefer a casual and a more intimate approach. Note how the writer seems to be speaking directly to the readers in the following example.

"Whatever approach you use to connect with your audience, remember to be sincere; your audience can surely sense whether you're sincere or just faking it. You might think your audience cannot sense it, but they do; they do." 


In cases when the writer is expressing dissatisfaction over certain issues, he or she may use a sarcastic tone. Sarcasm is sometimes used to lighten the impact of what could have been a harsh statement. On the contrary, it may also be used to heighten the impact of a statement. In the following example, note how sarcasm is evident.

"You call this urban living? This is hell with trees torn down to give way to bridges to ease this carmageddon!"

Determining the Relevance of the Text

As a reader, you are expected to weigh the importance of the texts you are reading. All texts have something to teach you, but some are more valuable than others in terms of the information and relevance they offer. As a reader, you might have your own standards in assessing the importance of a text. As with all forms of writing, academic texts need to be evaluated on the basis of their content, quality of writing and appropriateness to your needs. Most readers read through an academic text, assessing its relevance through the abstract. Some skim and scan the first few pages to determine what it has to offer. Others rely on what others have to say about it. Some read the entire article before making any assessment.

As an intelligent reader, you need to determine the worth of what you’re reading so as not to waste your time on materials that have little value to you.

Analyzing Key Information

To assess how well you understood the text, you might wish to use the following reading strategy called SQRRR. S stands for Survey; Q for Question, the first R for Read; the second R for Recall, and the third R for Review. The SQRRR method enables you to complete the cycle of reading from the initial phase of browsing through it to evaluating what you’ve learned. By following this method, you will be a more active reader. This method does not only teach you to “feel” the text by inspecting its preliminary parts; it also trains you to retain useful information.

The following chart lists the activities pertaining to each task:

SurveyBrowse through the article (inspect the tables and key information).
“Feel” the text.
QuestionAsk pertinent questions.
Annotate the margins.
ReadAnswer the questions you have raised.
Be mentally engaged with what you’re reading.
ReciteRecall important details.
Summarize important details based on what you remember.
ReviewTry to answer those questions that you failed to answer correctly.
Evaluate what you have learned.

Literal Meaning

A text consists of layers of meaning, and as a reader you need to determine its meaning beyond what is stated in the title. A text’s literal meaning is what is directly stated by the writer. It is what appears in the text itself. Meaning is said to be literal when what is stated equals what actually appears in the text. It is the surface meaning of the text, what you see as you read through the text. No hidden meanings are disguised in the form of satire or sarcasm, double meanings or puzzling statements. What you see is what is actually meant by the writer.

Implied Meaning

A text is said to have an implied meaning when what is directly state is not its real meaning. Instead, the intended meaning is stated more obliquely. This kind of meaning can only be arrived at after analyzing the hidden or implied meaning of the text. Because it is the more perplexing kind, implied meaning has to be drawn from the layers of meaning hidden in subtle language.

The dictionary defines implication as “the conclusion that can be drawn from something, although it is not explicitly stated.” Implication involve drawing conclusions about a topic as suggested by something you have read or seen. For instance when you say, “This research has implications for educators and guidance counselors,” you are claiming that the result of the research should be taken seriously by these sectors, and the result directly affect the way they shape the policies they will be making.

Skimming and Scanning

Skimming and scanning are two activities related to academic reading. Chances are, you have done these two activities. Most readers are unaware that each time they make an initial assessment of an academic text, they are actually skimming and scanning it.

Some students use skimming and scanning to get key information about the text with the intent to read it more thoroughly later. When you browse or leaf through a book, you are skimming and scanning it. Skimming and scanning might also include reading only the chapter heading or the entire chapter, reading the blurb or analyzing the abstract. The activity may also involve getting preliminary information about the text to determine its usefulness. In other words, when you “review” a text t determine how well you like it, you are skimming and scanning it.

On the other hand, skimming and scanning also involve a more scholarly chance to assessing a text. For example, when reading a long academic, you might wish to skim and scan to separate the main idea from minor ones so you can analyze it better.

It takes skill to be able to skim and scan correctly. Because these activities involve getting at the gist of the text, it requires the ability to distinguish the main idea from the less important ones. In short, skimming and scanning involve focusing on the key ideas to help you understand a text better.

In the following excerpt from an unpublished thesis titled “An Analysis the Communication Skills of the Business Education Students of MC University” only the important ideas are highlighted.

Dunbar (2006), responding to the need to assess the oral communication competence of students, used the “Competent Speaker” rubric developed by the National Communication Association to evaluate students’ performance in general education public speaking courses as a case study of students’ skills and program assessment. The results showed that students were below satisfactory in 5 out of the 8 competencies as defined by the National Communication Association, and the implications cannot be overlooked in designing reforms for communication across curriculum in general education.