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Study Effectively: Learning from Textbooks: Start Here

Why do I need to read my textbooks?

  • Textbooks normally contain information that is relevant and important to support what you are learning in lectures and labs.
  • Textbooks usually provide additional information, explanations, examples, summaries, and sample questions. 
  •  Your professor may test you on textbook material.

How can I determine the role of the textbook in my course?

  • It is important to understand the role the textbook plays in relation to the lecture material in each of your courses: 
    • does it duplicate the lecture material?
    • supplement it? 
    • serve as a source of different information you will be responsible for learning?
  • Review the course outline to determine how the textbook relates to the course objectives, lectures, labs, seminars, and assignments.
  • Choose strategies for reading and taking notes from your textbook that are consistent with the role it plays in the course.
  • Find out all you can about if/how you will be tested on the textbook material.

What are some strategies for reading textbooks?

  • Create a dialogue with the author(s) – ask questions as you read and make note of anything you don’t understand.
  • Use prior knowledge to predict what will come next.
  • Monitor your comprehension. Many textbooks have summary questions or learning objectives built in. Assess your comprehension by answering these questions.
  • Pay special attention to diagrams and charts. Study them closely to determine their purpose.
  • When you need to master the material in your textbook, try a method like SQ4R.

Should I highlight my textbook?

  • The best method for studying your textbook is one that is consistent with the amount of information and level of detail the instructor expects you to glean from the text.
  • Though highlighting is a common method for studying textbooks, it is very easy to highlight poorly, making you think you’ve processed and learned the material when you haven’t.
  • Most students highlight too much: experts say highlight 10-15% of the content while students usually highlight 70-80%.
  • Because only fragments of sentences are highlighted, when you study the highlighted sections you end up reading the whole sentence for context and then re-read much of the book.
  • It’s difficult to integrate content from lecture notes with textbook content.

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