Learning Commons

Study Skills - How to Read Textbooks

You can maximize your study time by reading your textbooks in an efficient manner. Here are some ideas to apply before you begin to read, while you are reading, and after you have read your assignment.

Before you begin to read your assignment:

  1. Look at the way the material is organized.

  2. Read the titles and sub headings.

  3. Be sure to read all the captions for pictures.

  4. Read the title and the axes labels for charts and graphs.

  5. If there are questions at the end of the material, read them. You will have a good idea which concepts are of key importance.

While you read:

  1. Read the entire paragraph or section without making notes or underlining anything.
  2. Think about what the major ideas are in contrast to the details.

After reading a paragraph or section:

  1. Use a pen or pencil, not a highlighter. With a pen or pencil, you can paraphrase and add margin notes.

  2. Marking your textbook
    a. Lines:
        Double lines for major ideas.
        Single lines for minor ideas.
    b. Margin notes:
        In the left margin write . . .
            1. Memory phrases
            2. Summaries and paraphrases of main ideas and details
            3. Predicted test questions

  3. Definitions and Examples
    a. Write “def” or “ex” in the margin.
    b. Underline definitions and put parenthesis around examples

  4. Important concepts: Put a circle or box around these to make them stand out.

  5. Captions: underline and mark these just as you would the text.

Textbook Reading Skills Links:

  1. WWW Links for Study Skills
    Great handout on how to quickly read a college level text.