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by Julia Nielsen
The WAY you read your textbook determines, to a large extent, what you get out of it. Many students read textbooks as they read for pleasure - from beginning to end, with no particular focus or expectation. Though reading textbooks can be enjoyable, you primarily expect to gain knowledge, and to do that you must focus your reading. With practice, your studying will be more efficient and more effective; there will be less wasted time, and you should retain more of what you've read. You are re-learning a skill, so reading this way may take longer at first.
While reading textbooks, forget two things you learned:
1. read from the beginning to the end.
For pleasure reading, beginning to end is good; for studying, it is not. In pleasure reading, following the author's thread is much of the enchantment. In knowledge reading, you need a clear notion of where you are going, why, and by what means.
2. don't write in books.
For borrowed books not marking in them is good, even commendable; for textbooks it is not. Your textbooks are knowledge tools - use them productively. This means margin notes and judicious highlighting or underlining.
This synthesis of experience and established materials explains how to read your textbook for maximum benefit. You can use the same method for the entire textbook, for chapters within it, and for journal articles.
The method is set out in individual steps, though you will do some of these things simultaneously; for instance, you may write notes in the margins or highlight as you read, especially the second and third time through.
The techniques within each category have been successful for many students for many years. However, not everyone will need or want all of them. This is YOUR study tool, so try the different techniques, keep what you like and discard the rest or put them in to a separate file 'just in case'.
Skim the book to get an idea of what it's about, who wrote it, and why. This step will take 10 to 20 minutes, no more. Consider the
Use the same process with chapters or units within your textbook; you want to get a general idea what you will be reading and learning. Think about what you already know about this or a similar topic. This helps build a context for the new information, and you are more likely to remember contextual rather than scattered, unrelated information. Consider the
While you survey, read, reflect and review. Though you will always be looking for What your reading is about, you will ask Who, When, Where, Why and How when necessary. You won't need to ask all these questions for all reading material.
Read the chapter or unit, bearing in mind what you've learned from your survey. Read your chapter in this order.
Try different ways to do this, then use the one(s) that work best for YOU. Summarize and paraphrase the chapter. Question yourself aloud about what you just read; answer the What, Who, When, Why, Where, and How components of your earlier survey. The more senses you use in your learning, the more likely you are to understand it and remember it.
For every study hour, take 5-10 minutes away from your study area; get some juice, pat the cat, run in place, but get away from your desk for a few minutes.
For every three hours, take a longer break, at least half an hour; take the dog for a walk, have a meal, shoot hoops, repot those plants...
Mostly you will do this in solitude. Some students like to supplement that with a study buddy or group.
Discussion with friends and relatives is another way to review; explaining a concept to someone who has not studied it clarifies the concept and makes it more real for you.
Review periodically throughout the term of the course. Do it the day after you read a piece of text, then weekly.
Quickly review the chapter or your notes before reading subsequent chapters.
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Updated February 04 2014 by Student & Academic Services