ENGL000 Study Guide

Unit 1: Active Reading

1a: Take effective notes while reading a text or listening to a video or lecture

  • What is the difference between active reading and passive reading?
  • What are the benefits of reading actively versus reading passively?

When you take notes, you are reading actively. Active reading is an important college-level study skill. Effectively implementing active reading strategies will help you understand and remember course material. You should have practiced active reading strategies as you moved through this course.

The Cornell Note-Taking System is one method for implementing active reading strategies to take effective notes while you read or listen to a lecture. There are five steps in the Cornell Note-Taking System that help you identify, understand, and remember key points. Can you name the five steps of the Cornell Note-Taking System in order and describe them.

Online reading environments differ from the printed page. For example, online materials often include hyperlinks, videos, advertisements, or other interactive elements. Active reading strategies tailored to online environments can help you understand and remember the material you read online. Describe some strategies for effectively reading material online.

To review see:


1b: Identify themes, main ideas, and topic sentences

  • What is the role of major details in a paragraph?
  • What is the role of minor details in a paragraph?

The topic or theme of a paragraph and the main idea of a paragraph tell us what a paragraph is about. The difference is that the topic or theme of a paragraph is often fairly broad. In contrast, the main idea of a paragraph is more specific. It narrowly defines the subject of the paragraph.

Read this paragraph from Organizing Your Ideas: Topic Sentences:

By dedicating each paragraph to only one part of your argument, you will give the reader time to fully evaluate and understand each claim before going on to the next one. Think of paragraphs as a way of guiding your reader's attention – by giving them a single topic, you force them to focus on it. When you direct their focus, they will have a much easier time following your argument.

  • In your own words, what is the topic of this paragraph?
  • In your own words, what is the main idea of this paragraph?

A topic sentence expresses the main idea of a paragraph. It tells the reader what the paragraph will be about, and it may express the author's point of view or opinion about the main idea. Most often the topic sentence will be the first sentence in a paragraph, but this may not always be the case. Re-read the example paragraph in 1b.1 above. In that paragraph, which is the topic sentence?

The main idea of a paragraph is supported by major details and minor details that explain the main idea and give examples.

To review, see:


1c: Write complete sentences with a clear focus, including topic sentences

  • There are different types of verbs. What is the difference between an action verb and a linking verb? Give an example of each.
  • A clause is any sentence or part of a sentence that has a subject and a verb. What is the difference between a dependent clause and an independent clause?
  • What are the three types of punctuation that indicate the end of a sentence?
  • Which type of clause expresses a complete thought?

A complete sentence has a subject and an agreeing verb. A verb expresses the action of a clause; verbs express the physical or mental action or the condition of the subject. A subject is a noun (a person, place, thing, or idea) that completes the action. A complete sentence must end with an appropriate punctuation mark. A sentence must also express a complete thought. Moreover, effective sentences clearly express a specific idea. 

To review, see The Sentence.


1d: Identify and employ a variety of sentence patterns to improve coherence

  • Declarative, exclamatory, imperative, and interrogative sentences each have a different purpose. What is the purpose of each type of sentence? Give an example of each.
  • Simple, complex, compound, and complex-compound sentences each have a different structure. What is the structure of each type of sentence? Give an example of each.

All complete sentences have a subject and agreeing verb, express a complete thought, and conclude with appropriate punctuation. There are different types of complete sentences. Sentence types can be differentiated by their purpose and by their structure.

Effective paragraphs make use of a variety of sentence types, as well as sentences of varying lengths. Effective writers also vary the language they use to begin and end sentences. Sentence variation can be used strategically to engage readers, highlight important information, and indicate relationships between ideas.

To review, see The Structure of a Sentence, Main Idea and Supporting Sentences Quiz, and Using Varied Sentence Lengths and Styles.


1e: Apply prewriting strategies to narrow a topic and develop a piece of writing

  • What are two pre-writing strategies that can help you identify a topic?
  • What are two pre-writing strategies that can help you narrow your topic?

Writing is a process with multiple steps. The first step in the process is pre-writing. During the pre-writing stage, you explore ideas for your essay, choose a topic, and ultimately narrow your topic to fit the audience and purpose of the assignment. After you complete one or more pre-writing exercises to define the scope of your topic, then you can move on to the remaining stages of the writing process: outlining, drafting, revising, and editing. There are a wide variety of pre-writing strategies available to you as a writer. Some pre-writing strategies are useful when you still need to identify a topic for your essay, while others are more beneficial for helping you narrow your topic.

To review, see Pre-Writing Activities and Apply Prewriting Models.


1f: Organize paragraphs effectively by using appropriate topic sentences and supporting sentences

Writing an effective paragraph is more than stringing together a series of sentences. Effective writing has purpose, structure, and a sense of voice or style that engages the reader. Well-organized paragraphs are composed of grammatically correct sentences, each of which clearly expresses a complete thought. They also have a main idea that is clearly expressed in a topic sentence. They also support the main idea with major and minor details that explain the main idea and give examples. Finally, they use a variety of sentence patterns to engage the reader and provide clues about the relationships between ideas in the paragraph.

To review, see Main Idea Paragraph Writing Quiz.


Unit 1 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you answer some of the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

  • complex sentence
  • complex-compound sentence
  • compound sentence
  • Cornell Note-taking System
  • declarative sentence
  • dependent clause
  • exclamatory sentence
  • imperative sentence
  • independent clause
  • interrogative sentence
  • main idea
  • major detail
  • minor detail
  • passive reading
  • pre-writing
  • simple sentence
  • subject
  • topic
  • topic sentence
  • verb