Dissecting an article

How to make the most of a long-winded text, step by step and learn vocabulary in the process.

Advanced students are presented with demanding readings that can, at first sight, look daunting because of their length and complexity.

With this technique, they can be broken down into manageable tasks that will, in turn, not only make it more accessible but also promote vocabulary learning.

Let’s take as a reference this article about friendship that contains a wealth of language worth learning.

How to Maintain Friendships


Step One: Headline

Bear in mind that the title (and subtitle when there is one) encapsulate the essence. Read it, rather than jump straight into the first paragraph.

In this case, it is short and to the point but headlines often display plays on words or irony that set the tone for what comes next.

Step Two: Identify the phrases that carry meaning

If you are sitting at your computer and have a digital text in hand: copy it and paste it into a blank page
  1. Basically, as you read along, identify words and phrases that convey ideas and/or that you would like to use and learn.
  2. Do one paragraph at a time.
  3. Read through once first and then sentence by sentence, use your mouse to select and discard the rest by erasing it.
  4.  Make a list with your chosen words/phrases.

See an example model below with the two first paragraphs

Paragraph 1

Age and time have a funny relationship: Sure, they both move in the same direction, but the older we get, the more inverse that relationship can feel. And as work and family commitments take up a drastically outsize portion of that time, it’s the treasured friendships in our life that often fade.

Dissecting the paragraph into its skeleton:

·         Age and time

·         move in the same direction

·         the older we get, the more inverse

·         work and family commitments take up time

·         friendships fade

Paragraph 2

recent study found that the maximum number of social connections for both men and women occurs around the age of 25. But as young adults settle into careers and prioritize romantic relationships, those social circles rapidly shrink and friendships tend to take a back seat.

·         recent study 

·         maximum number of social connections

·         occurs around the age of 25

·         settle into careers

·         prioritize romantic relationships

·         social circles shrink



1- If you are using a photocopy or textbook, you could grab a highlighter with the same purpose (and ideally, also a piece of paper where you can rewrite the chunks of words that you have selected).

2- For a more comprehensive list of the language extracted from this article, e-mail me, and I will send it your way.


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