Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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.)

Suggest an edit to this guide

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.