Chapter 6: Reading and Summarizing


Translated from the online collection catalogue of the Rijksmuseum:

Still life with books in a niche, Barthélémy d’Eyck, 1442-1445. In the middle a pencil case, on the right a round and a rectangular box. Upper part of the left side panel with the prophet Isaiah, in the Museum Boijmans-Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. The right side panel is in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, the middle panel with the proclamation is in the church of Ste. Madelaine in Aix-en-Provence.

For all information provided in the online catalogue, click here, or on the picture above.


The painting by Barthélémy d’Eyck is more than 550 years old, but what is pictured is still relevant. Books and other documents are an essential part of our society, whether they are written or printed on paper or digitally displayed on a screen. Our deepest insights, our most beautiful stories, our best poems, our most advanced knowledge; all of this is recorded in written form, and is thus accessible to ourselves and many generations after us. That is an enormous wealth of information, sometimes so overwhelming that it can be very difficult to keep sight of what is important, even if we try to limit ourselves to a single subject or a specific aspect of a subject.

In order to make the best use of the information from the many texts available to us, we have to learn strategies that enable us to read and summarize texts quickly and effectively. Chapter 6 presents such strategies and explains how we can process the information provided by a text quickly but also critically.

Special attention is paid to the question of how readers can combine information from different sources in such a way that, on the one hand, they can construct a logically coherent argument of their own, while on the other hand doing justice to the authors of the consulted material. Readers can then select and structure the information they found in such a way that it naturally fits into their own new text. They choose their own perspective. From that perspective they can then select the questions and key answers that are important to them, and arrange these questions and key answers in such a way that they fit within the structure they want to use for their own text. Such restructuring readers ‘tilt’ the information they have found in the literature they consulted, and then use it in their own text schema. A reader thus also becomes a writer. The pen box and the loose papers that Barthélémy d'Eyck added to his 'Still life with books in a niche' are a nice illustration of this double role.