Textbook Reading Strategies


Before You Read

Preview. Getting the big picture enhances retention of details. You learn best from general to specific.

• Read chapter objectives, headings and subheadings.

• Look over charts and pictures in the chapter

• Read the bold and italicized words to become familiar with the chapter vocabulary.

• Read chapter summaries and questions at the end of the chapter.

Question. Determine what you want from the assignment. Turn each heading into a question. Write down your questions and look for answers as you read. For example if the heading is “Transference and Suggestions,” ask yourself, “How does transference relate to suggestion?”


While You Read

Reflect. Take a moment to ask yourself what you already know about this subject. As you read:

• Visualize the material. Form mental pictures of the concepts presented.

• Read aloud especially if it is complicated. You will remember better if you hear the material too.

• Answer the questions you created. Try to predict the answers and read to find out if your predictions were correct.

Highlight. Be selective. Read the paragraph first. Underline key passages with pencil. Recite what you remember to yourself, then go back and highlight. Avoid highlighting more than 20% of the passage.

• Circle key terms and write short definitions in the margin or on note cards.

• Write Q's in the margins for possible test questions.

• Draw diagrams, pictures, tables, or maps that translate text into visual terms.

• Use the backside of your lecture notes to take corresponding reading notes. When studying for the test all the material for the topic will be in the same location in your notes.

• Write summaries of the main ideas at the bottom of your notes. Putting information in your own words promotes mastery of the material.


After You Read

Recite. Talk to yourself or to someone else about what you read. Studies show that you can profitably devote up to 80% of your study time to active reciting.

Review. Reviewing within 24 hours moves information from short-term to long-term memory. Spend 15 minutes looking over your notes and reciting the main points again.

Review again. Weekly, spend 5-10 minutes rereading your notes and highlighting portions of your text. This keeps neuron pathways accessing the information for better recall.



When Reading Is Tough


Read it again. Difficult material is often easier the second time around.

Read it aloud. Read the passage out loud several times with different inflections. Pretend you are the author talking.

Stand up. Changing positions can combat fatigue. Stand as you read aloud, especially if you get stuck on a tough passage.

Hold a mini-review. Pause briefly to summarize. Stop at the end of the paragraph and recite in your own words what you have read.

Look for essential words. Cross out all the adjectives and adverbs, and read the sentence without them. Find the important word.

Skip around. Jump to the end of the chapter and read the summary or conclusion to get the big picture.

Pretend you understand, then explain it. Pretend the material is clear as a bell and try to explain it to another person, or to yourself. You may know more than you thought you did.

Mark it. When you feel stuck, put and “S” for “stuck” in the margin. A pattern of marks over several pages will indicate the questions you want answered in class.

“Google” it. Look up confusing concepts on the web and read the explanation in “user friendly” language.

Stop reading. Admit confusion and take a break. Allow some time to process the information. When you return, you will see it with fresh eyes.



Keep in Mind


What to Read

Know how much of your test is based on lecture notes and how much is based on material from the textbook.

Where to Study

Read in a location free of distractions. Busy locations have distractions that compete for your attention.

Be comfortable but not too comfortable.Your bed is not a good idea. It will put you to sleep.

When to Read

Read during the day when you are alert and attentive.

Read for 30 to 45 minutes and then take a 10 minute break.

Read each day. If you fall behind and have to catch up on reading, you will find yourself skimming and missing a lot of important information.

How to Retain It

Set up study groups to discuss text information. Discussion moves new material from short term to long term memory.

Reading aloud will not only help you engage in the text but will also aid in information retrieval.