The Power of Active Reading and Contextual Highlighting


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 23, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Active Reading and Contextual Highlighting


In our fast-paced world, it can be challenging to retain and apply the information we consume. Whether it's learning a new skill or understanding complex concepts, we often struggle to connect the dots and make sense of the knowledge we acquire. However, by adopting the practices of one-on-one training and active reading with contextual highlighting, we can transform our ability to absorb and utilize information effectively. In this article, we will explore the benefits of these techniques and provide actionable advice to help you enhance your learning journey.

The Importance of Context in Highlighting:

Highlighting is a common practice when reading a book or an article. It serves as a visual cue for important information that resonates with us at a particular moment. However, the problem arises when we fail to reconstruct the meaning behind these highlights. This phenomenon, known as "Highlight Dementia," occurs due to the lack of a comprehensive reading strategy beyond the act of highlighting itself. To combat this, it is crucial to create context around our highlights.

Creating Context:

To prevent Highlight Dementia, we must go beyond merely marking up a text. Whether you choose synchronous active reading or asynchronous active reading, the key lies in creating context around your highlights. Synchronous active reading involves having a separate space, such as index cards, a notebook, or a digital note-taking tool, open alongside the text. This allows you to immediately jot down quotes and thoughts, establishing a connection between the highlighted sentence and your personal insights. On the other hand, asynchronous active reading, which involves using only a pen or highlighter, is more vulnerable to Highlight Dementia due to the time gap between highlighting and transferring the information.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Take the time to reflect: For every highlight you make, take a moment to note down a few words on why you found the sentence important. This simple practice will encourage active reading and help you establish a personal connection with the highlighted content.
  • 2. Transfer your notes and highlights: Once you have finished reading, ensure that you transfer your notes and highlights to a permanent note storage system. This could be a digital platform like Roam Research or a physical notebook dedicated to your personal knowledge repository. By organizing and centralizing your highlights, you create a rich tapestry of interconnected ideas that you can revisit and build upon in the future.
  • 3. Embrace the power of context: While reading, strive to become an active reader by actively creating context around your highlights. This could involve summarizing the main idea of a section or drawing connections between different concepts. By doing so, you enhance your understanding, memory retention, and ability to connect the dots with other ideas.


In a world overflowing with information, it's crucial to develop effective strategies for learning and retaining knowledge. Through the practices of active reading and contextual highlighting, we can transform our ability to absorb, understand, and apply information. By taking the time to create context around our highlights, transferring our notes to a permanent storage system, and actively engaging with the material we consume, we empower ourselves to become lifelong learners capable of leveraging our knowledge in meaningful ways. So, the next time you pick up a book or an article, remember the power of active reading and make your highlights come alive through context.

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