Tips for Reading Nonfiction

Need help reading the websites, speeches, and articles featured on this site?
Use these core strategies to tackle even the most complex informational texts.

Evaluate Information in Media

Evaluating information in media is similar to evaluating it in a written text. Whether you are reading a blog post, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or browsing a photo essay, start by identifying the central ideas and examining how the writer supports those ideas. Then analyze the presentation of information, which can feel quite different from medium to medium.

Keep these strategies in mind:

  • Investigate everything that’s offered. From images and infographics to animations, videos, and traditional text, media presentations deliver information through a variety of elements, all deserving of analysis. For example, if you are browsing a photo essay, look carefully at the images and then remember to read the captions. Check to see if any links are provided to additional content. Use the medium to your advantage, and explore what is offered.
  • Compare media and text. If you’ve read other informational texts about the topic, consider the similarities and differences between the information included in each source. For instance, suppose you read a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and then listened to a recording of his delivery of the speech. How might hearing King’s delivery impact your understanding of his words?
  • Consider the medium. The creator of the content could have delivered the information in many ways but chose to deliver it this way. Why still photographs instead of video, or an audio clip instead of text? Why this medium over any other? Is the creator’s choice of media effective?
  • View with a critical eye. Today’s news reports, political ads, and PSAs have such polish and visual style that it’s easy to accept the information they deliver at face value. Note specific facts and details, and then verify their accuracy and credibility with another source.