Read - Outline - Highlight

Step 1. Preview the text

a.    Determine how much is new information
b.    Think about how you will be tested on the material

Step 2. Separate the chapter(s) into sections by headings

a.    Read the information under the first heading
b.    After reading, take notes in outline format
c.    Use only main ideas and the most important details
d.    Read and outline each section until the reading is complete

Step 3. Highlight to review, and begin the study process

a.    Highlight main ideas in one color
b.    Highlight details in contrasting color
c.    Determine if there is too much information or too little

You and Your Text

Ideas taken from:
Mercer, Ann.  Mercer, C.  Teaching Students with Learning Problems.  3rd ed.  Merrill Publishing Company: 1989.
Shepherd, James.  College Study Skills.  4th ed.  Houghton Mifflin Company: 1990.

How to Read a Textbook

Do you often:

  1. get bored or fall asleep when reading a textbook chapter?
  2. feel that you haven't remembered a thing after you finished reading a chapter?
  3. get poor grades in courses that require reading textbook material?
  4. spend several hours rereading a chapter in a textbook?

If you checked one or more of these symptoms, you need to read the rest of this carefully. If you learn to effectively use this system, you can help improve your reading. A large amount of college reading consists of reading and learning the information in textbooks. They are not the most interesting books to read, but they are often the most predictable. Sections are clearly divided and subdivided into boldface print and italics; study questions often come at the end of the chapter; charts and illustrations usually represent the most important facts and concepts discussed in the chapter; and usually the style of textbook material is straightforward. With the right system, reading textbook material can prove to be a worthwhile study experience.

Adapted from Phillips & Sotirion, Steps to Reading Proficiency

Surveying the Entire Text

If you are reading a textbook for the first time, get to know the book by:

  1. Reading the preface. It gives the author's reasons for writing the book, the topics covered, and the audience that the textbook is written for-items that will help you read the chapter efficiently.
  2. Studying the table of contents to see how it is organized. Look at its divisions and subdivisions. The textbook's overall organization will help you understand how the author thinks about the material.
  3. Thumbing through the index to see the number and types of words listed.
  4. Looking to see if there is a glossary or appendix. See whether you will need to refer to charts or graphs as you read various chapters of the textbook.
  5. Noting if there is an answer key at the end of the book or at the end of each chapter.
  6. Reading through a few pages at the beginning, middle, and end of the textbook to get a sense of the author's style and the difficulty level of the textbook. Does the author use a difficult vocabulary? Are the sentences complicated and hard to follow?

Adapted from Phillips & Sotirion, Steps to Reading Proficiency.

Reading a Textbook Chapter

You will find it easier to read, understand, and remember the information in your textbook if you develop and consistently apply a system for studying each chapter.

The two keys to the system presented below are:

  1. frequently skimming and previewing to discover organizational patterns, and
  2. dividing the reading into progressively smaller and more manageable pieces.

STEP 1 Survey/Preview the Chapter (Skim the entire chapter.)

STEP 2 Skim each section before reading that section carefully (Skim one section)

STEP 3 Carefully read/underline/highlight each section (paragraph by paragraph).


STEP 4 Decide what to study (entire chapter).

STEP 5 Review/Recite

Adapted from Phillips & Sotirion, Steps to Reading Proficiency.



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revised 04.12.1999 12:57