Health Center: Reading Textbooks
Determine what the purpose of the reading assignment is.
- If you are reading material in preparation for a lecture then survey the chapter first. Read the title, the summary at the end of the chapter, the headings, and the first sentence of each paragraph, the picture captions, and the vocabulary in dark type. This is the first step in the SQ3R method of reading.
- If you are reading following the lecture, follow the entire SQ3R procedure.
- If you are reading research material to find information, scan quickly for key words or names, and then read only the sections that will be pertinent.
Determine what type of material you are reading.
- If you are reading for a class in which broad concepts are enough, you can read fairly swiftly. Stop at the end of each paragraph or section to summarize the main ideas.
- If you are reading science or other technical material, read for details. This is slow reading, and it is often necessary to reread two or even three times. Use a Concept Map at the end of your reading to review your understanding of the material.
- If you are reading literature, read for enjoyment, but also be on the lookout for literary features such as point of view, figurative language, and/or character development.
- If you are reading essays, analyze for fact versus opinion, bias, author's thesis, and other information that might be useful when discussing the reading.
To read more efficiently:
- Find a time and place conducive to concentration. The library is a good place with few distractions. Determine your optimal time of concentration. Are you a morning or evening person?
- Take notes on your reading. These may be a separate entity, or they may be additions to class notes.
- Stop frequently to check on your comprehension. Look away from the book and recite or summarize the main points.
- If your mind is wandering take a break or change your position.
- The second time through highlight the important points (not everything!) or make annotations in the margins. Use one color for main ideas and a second color for details.
- Be prepared to read some materials two or even three times. Even the best readers have to read some things more than once. If the material is technical in nature or if it contains new concepts, you should not expect to remember or understand the material in one reading.
Use a Concept or Mind Map as a means of reviewing and/or testing what you remember. If you can explain it to yourself or someone else then you understand the material. Review your reading and class notes frequently to ensure that the information is retained in your long-term memory.
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