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Study Effectively

How important is the textbook in my course?

  • How does the textbook relate 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?

  • Read related lecture notes to give you an overview of the content. Reviewing your lecture notes will help prepare your brain for reading the textbook. 
  • Skim the assigned chapter(s) to get an overview of the content.
  • Think about what you already know about the content, and what you need to understand better.
  • Read one short section at a time. Use the textbook's summary questions, problem sets, or case studies to test your understanding.
  • After reading a short section, take notes. You'll text your memory and comprehension better if you take notes without looking at the textbook.
  • Pay special attention to diagrams and charts. Study them closely to determine their purpose.
  • Create a dialogue with the author(s) – ask questions as you read and make note of anything you don’t understand.
  • Take regular breaks! Textbooks are not designed to be read for hours at a time. Read for 15-30 minutes at a time, and then take a 5-minute stretch break. 
  • When you need to master the material in your textbook, try a method like SQ4R.

Should I highlight my textbook?

Though highlighting is a common method for studying textbooks, it's usually not very effective for learning.

  • 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.
  • Highlighting means that your studying is limited to rereading; if you take notes, you can write your notes in formats that can help you learn the material more deeply and test your knowledge. See our webpages on Creating a Concept Map, the Cornell Method of Notetaking, SQ4R for  more details. (Links are on the left-hand side of this webpage.)

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