How to Read a Text Book

Reading a textbook is more than just silently reading and turning pages. It demands an active reading approach.

These steps will assist you in developing such an approach. Although active reading take more time, it doesn’t take much more time and will pay off in your performance in the classroom, on exams, and will greatly reduce your time spent in reviewing material the night before an exam.

Step 1. Preview the chapter.
Previewing the chapter is like looking over a road map prior to traveling. By previewing you will be able to identify how long it will take, how difficult or easy it will be to read, at what point you will want to take a break, as well as what you should expect to learn. Previewing is accomplished through the following activities.

  • Read the titles, heading and subheadings. What do these mean and how are they presented?
  • Read the introductions. What is expected to be covered? What is the purpose of each section?
  • Read through the summary. What are the main points of the chapter?
  • Note any graphs, charts, and/or pictures. What do these mean? How are they being used?
  • Note any important and/or unfamiliar terms or concepts. What needs to be known about these terms or concepts?

Step 2. Identify your questions.
After previewing the chapter what questions do you have? Make sure they are more meaningful than just yes or no questions. Turn the titles, headings and subheading in to what, when, why, who, and how questions.Your questions need to be more meaningful than simple yes or no questions. Your instructor may have provided you with questions as well.WRITE YOUR QUESTION DOWN!Chances are you will forget them as you begin to read. Also continue asking and writing down question while you read.

Step 3. Reading.
The goal of reading is to gather the information necessary to answer your questions and understand the course material. Read one section at a time. Use markers (sticky tabs, check marks, highlighters, etc) and write your own notes in the margins to identify important points. Schedule reading breaks after completing a section or after reading for some amount of time in order to keep you from reader’s fatigue.

Step 4. Repeat and reread.
Don’t expect to know it because you read it once. Just as reading was all about gathering the information, repeating and rereading is about understanding and remembering the information. After reading a section close your book, pretend a little troll is standing at your side pulling at your arm, asking “What’d it say? What’d it say??” If you can answer the little troll, you got it!

If you have blanks in your response to the troll, you need to reread the section for better understanding. Write down your understanding of the information you read in your own words. Go back and reread the section to make sure your understanding is correct. If there are any questions after repeating and rereading, these would be good to bring to class.