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Reading Textbooks

One of the biggest mistakes students make regarding textbook readings is that they don’t read; either they say it takes too much time, it doesn’t help, or they just don’t understand.  Rest assured, faculty members don’t assign readings for busy work.  Your professors truly feel as though it will enrich your overall understanding of class material.  Students will, a lot of times, just start reading without having an approach; then, they proceed to read until they have “read it all”.  This error can cost a lot of time and can eventually lead to a lot of frustration.  Below are some tips for ensuring you get everything you can out of an assigned reading without spending too much of your valuable time.  The first 2 should be completed before going to class, and the third point should be completed after attending lecture.

  1. Preview your reading: This should be done before you even step foot in the classroom for the lecture over the material.  Spend 5-10 minutes looking at headings, reading summaries, and getting an overall big picture over what you will read.  You should also develop questions about content you want to learn more about – these should be answered in step 2.  The goal here is to create a story line that will make the details easier to put together later.  
  2. Read actively by highlighting, taking notes, and checking for understanding: First, you should develop what the big ideas/themes are for your reading.  Then, fill in key supporting details that help make each big idea understandable.  This may be vocabulary, steps to a process, historical facts, events, people, etc.  Textbooks are known for having a lot of details and are typically very dense.  You should not try to understand/memorize every single fact – frankly, it won’t happen and you will end up wasting a lot of time.  The goal here is to have an overall understanding of the material before walking into the next class.  You can also generate questions regarding your overall understanding of content – in class would be a perfect time to ask these!  What you write down during this time should be written in your own words and not the words of the textbook.  
  3. Review your reading: This should be done after class.  Once you attend class and engage actively by taking notes, you should review all of your materials from lecture and your readings.  The easiest way to do this is summarize all information from lecture and your reading by combining the concepts into a big picture.  Write down the most important ideas or concepts, and fill in the details to help you understand it later.  

Thomas Frank Video – 5 Active Reading Strategies for Textbook Assignments

If you have any questions or need any help with reading various sources, please don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with our Peer Academic Coaches here.