Studying & Writing Effectively

Reading your textbook

Reading a textbook is different from reading a novel, a newspaper, a magazine, or a comic book. Use the strategies below to get the most out of the time and energy you put into working with your texts.

How can you concentrate better while reading?

  • Select a consistent reading or study place with good lighting, comfortable temperature, and minimal distractions.
  • Set specific goals for reading a set number of pages every 50 minutes or so by breaking the chapter into logical sections.
  • Plan regular short breaks so you better understand and retain what you read.
  • Deal with the task at hand and monitor your concentration. If you’re thinking about something else, write it down and return to it later.

Reflect: Do you have a favorite study space on campus and at home? Having a set study space that fits your needs helps put you in the right frame of mind to learn.

How can you prepare to study your textbook?

  • Review the course outline and understand the course objectives.
  • Identify the main topics, class schedule, due dates, grading system, and assignment/exam types.
  • Figure out how the text connects to the lectures, assignments, and exams.
  • Predict the kind of test questions you might have.
  • Preview the textbook and figure out what tools it has.
    • Table of contents, glossary, index
    • Chapter learning objectives, review questions, summaries, introduction
    • Diagrams, charts, tables, list of key terms
    • Headings, sub-headings, bolded/italicized terms
    • CD, DVD, web link

Reflect: Do you know why you’re reading your textbook for each class? Knowing your purpose for reading helps you use your time more efficiently when you work with the text.

How can you prepare before reading a chapter?

  • Survey the chapter before you read it.
    • Read the headings and subheadings, first sentence of each paragraph, the chapter summary and the review questions, and the list of key terms.
  • Ask questions using the learning objectives or headings and sub-headings.
  • Read for the main idea
  • Determine the organizational pattern of the material.
    • Cause and effect
    • Chronological order and process
    • Comparison and contrast
    • Definition
    • Illustration or example
  • Make sure you understand what you are reading by explaining the main idea and key points in your own words.
    • If you can’t do this, reread it out loud.
    • You might need to look up new words that you don’t understand or which are used in a new way.

Reflect: Could you explain the main point of each paragraph in your own words? In order to put ideas into your own words accurately, you need to understand the material fully.

How can you record important information?

  • After you read a paragraph, underline or highlight words and phrases of important main ideas and examples.
  • After you read a paragraph, make margin notes.
  • Outline or map the information.
  • Make a voice recording of your summary of the paragraph.

Reflect: Have you tried making margin notes after each section or highlighting after each paragraph? This is a good way to ensure you understand the material and should keep you more engaged in reading.

When is the best time to review material you've read and how do you do it?

  • Review material after you’ve read the chapter and recorded important points.
  • Review your notes after every lecture, once a week and once a month.
  • Test yourself each time you review.

Reflect: Have you actively reviewed your notes periodically? You won’t need to relearn the material for an exam from the beginning if you have periodically reviewed it.

More detailed PDF document