First: read a section of your textbook chapter
Read just enough to
keep an understanding of the material. Do not take notes, but rather focus on understanding the material.
It is tempting to take notes as you are reading the first time, but this is not an efficient
technique: you are likely to take down too much information and simply copy without understanding
Second: Review the material
Locate the main ideas, as well as important sub-points
Set the book aside
Paraphrase this information: Putting the textbook information in your own words forces you to become actively involved with the material
Third: write the paraphrased ideas as your notes
Do not copy information directly from the textbook. Add only enough detail to understand
See Concept mapping for a system of writing and organizing notes.
Review, and compare your notes with the text,
and ask yourself if you truly understand
How to read an essay
Note: this excellent process can be applied to books, chapters in books,
articles, and all manner of reading. It has been adapted with permission from Professor M. Les Benedict, Department of History, Ohio State University
What is the title?
What does it tell you about what the essay is about?
What do you already know about the subject?
What do you expect the essay to say about it--especially given when it was written and who the author was (see
When was the essay written?
Do you know anything about the state of the historical literature on the subject at that time?
If so, what do you expect the essay to say?
Who wrote it? What do you expect him or her to say here?
What are the author's credentials, or affiliations?
What are his/her prejudices?
Are you familiar with the authors' other work related to the subject?
Read the essay, marking the information that is crucial to you.
When the text gives you crucial information, mark and note it:
What exactly is the subject?
How does it correspond to the title?
What are the main points--the theses?
What is the evidence that the author gives to sustain the thesis or theses?
What is the factual information that you want to retain?
Is there a good description of something you knew, or did not know, that you want to remember its location? If so, mark it. If for research,
make out a research note on it.
Does the author cite some important source that you want to retain for future reference?
If so, mark it. If for research, make out a bibliographic note either now or on
reviewing the article for such citations.
Once you have finished the article, reflect on:
What have your learned?
How does it relate to what you already know?
Did you find the argument convincing on its own terms?
Given what you know about the subject, do you think the main point(s) might be correct even if the argument was not convincing?
Can you think of information that makes you doubt the main point(s), even if the essay argued it well?
How does the essay relate to other things you have read--that is, how does it fit in the historical literature?
Reading Difficult Material
' Read the title and the first paragraph
If there is a summary at the end of a chapter, read it.
Get a grasp of how the material is organized.
If you need more background, seek another source.
Now decide if you have enough background to begin reading.
' Look for main ideas
Look for titles, headings, and subheadings.
Pick out topic sentences.
Utilize graphs, charts, and diagrams.
Take notes while you read (see mapping to organize these ideas)
' Look up words
Look up words whose meanings are important to your
understanding of the material, but you cannot discern from the context.
' Monitor your comprehension
Periodically stop and ask yourself, "What have I learned?" Connect this to what you already know.
If your are not comprehending an idea, go back and reread.
Restate difficult ideas in your own words.
' Read to the end
Do not get discouraged and stop reading.
can become clearer the more you read. When you finish reading, review to see what you have learned, and reread those ideas that are not clear.
Adapted from College Reading and Study Skills by Nancy V. Wood, Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 1991