Know How to Read a Textbook
Textbook authors have done a lot of work for you. They’ve inserted bold-faced subtitles that tell you exactly what you’re going to be reading about. They’ve put all of the important words in bold or italic print, and they’ve added pictures, charts, graphs, lists of vocabulary words, summaries and review questions. The textbook authors have provided these “learning tools” in order to make it easier for you to learn and retain the information they are presenting.
Scanning gives you a quick overview of the material that you’re going to be reading. To scan, read the title, the subtitles, and everything in bold and italic print. Look at all of the pictures, charts, and graphs, and read the introduction, the review questions, and the summary.
On your handout, you’ll find a music history textbook article on the Beatles. If you were to scan this page, you would read the title and each of the section headings: The Beatles dominate the music industry, The Beatles get their start in Liverpool, The Beatles change their image, The Beatles find success in the U.S., and The Beatles go their separate ways. You would then read everything in bold print: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon, Brian Epstein, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You would also look at the chart, and you would the Review Questions.
Scanning provides you with a great deal of information in a very short amount of time. (Look at how much you learned about the Beatles just from reading the section headings.) In addition to providing you with an excellent overview of the text, scanning also provides you with a kind of “information framework”. Having this framework of topics and main ideas will make it much easier for you to read, understand, and remember the more detailed information.
When your reading has a purpose, you have a reason to stay focused and your comprehension improves. To give you r reading purpose, try turning each bold-faced subtitle into a question. For example, you could turn the subtitle, The Beatles change their image, into the question, “What did the Beatles do to change their image?” Keep your question in mind as you read. At the end of the section, see if you can answer it. Your question will give you something specific to look for, and it will keep your mind from wandering. You will, therefore, remember more of what you read.
Before you start to read a section, look to see if there are any vocabulary words, names, places, or events in bold or italic print, and then ask yourself, “Why is this word, person, place, or event important? You should, of course, have an answer to that question when you finish reading the section. For example, after reading “The Beatles change their image,” you should know who Brian Epstein is.
When you have finished your reading, you should also be able to answer all of the Review Questions.
Most students, after having scanned and read the material, will say, “I’m done,” and then they’ll close their book. Taking a few extra minutes for review, however, will make a huge difference in what you’re able to remember later. When you review, you lock the information into your brain before it has a chance to evaporate.
To review, first ask yourself, “What is the main idea the author is trying to get across?” Then go back to the beginning and go through the same process you did when you scanned the material. This time, as you read the bold faced subtitles, briefly restate the purpose or point of each section to yourself using your own words. As you look at the vocabulary words and the words in bold and italic print, think about what they mean and why they are significant. If you really want to lock the information into your brain, review everything again a day or two later. When you sit down to study for the test, you’ll be amazed at how well you know the material.
While it may take a little practice to get the Scan, Read and Review process down, you’ll soon realize that his process doesn’t mean more work. It just means better grades.
(O’Brien, Linda; How to Get Good Grades in College)
In addition, you should spend time after each class reviewing your notes from that lecture. You should review the applicable sections in your textbook and fill in your class notes with information from your textbook that relates to the subjects and ideas discussed in your class lecture. Many professors will not tell you to do this – rather they EXPECT you to do it as part of college work.