Many students skip this important step in studying and preparing for class. Your textbook is a valuable resource. It may contain more detail about subjects from lecture, provide relevant examples, and it may also give summaries and important vocabulary terms. Here are some general tips that may help make textbook reading less of a chore:

Study in a quiet environment with adequate lighting.

  • Don't read in bed. You'll fall asleep.
  • Don't read with the radio on. You'll get distracted.

Read carefully.

  • Differentiate between skimming to get an overview, casual reading like you would do for a novel and reading for content, which is what you want to do with textbooks.

Get rid of your highlighter.

  • The methods you'll learn involve no highlighting. Highlighting something does not mean that you know it any better, it simply means that you have read it once.

Read actively.

  • Think about what the author is saying, formulate questions in your mind, use intonation to imagine what the words sound like and to organize your thoughts.

Here are some tried-and-true methods for reading your textbooks. Keep in mind that you may need to adapt these methods to fit your learning style. But try them for a t least 2 weeks before you decide whether or not they work for you.

SQ3R Method

The SQ3R system was developed in the 1940s by a psychologist from Ohio State and has remained popular for many years.

S » Survey » Go through the chapter and get an overview of what you'll be reading. Look over the chapter and section headings, read the sections summaries, and look at charts and graphs. Try to get a feel for how the chapter is organized.

Q » Question » Turn the chapter and section headings into questions. This will help to identify the main points that you should be reading.

R1 » Read » Read each paragraph or section actively to answer the question you formulated.

R2 » Recite » After you have read a paragraph or section, cover up the page and try to recite the answer to the question you created. If you cannot do this, reread the section and try again.

R3 » Review » When you are done reading, go back to the beginning and glance through what you have read. Think about your questions and answers. You will finish with an overview of the chapter.

Question-in-the-Margin System

This system is based on the SQ3R method, with a few additional steps added in. It includes the formation of questions after the reading has been done, as well as adding a final step to encourage thinking about the material in depth.

Survey » Skim over the chapter to get an overview of what you'll be reading. Read the chapter and section headings and read any summaries.

Question » Turn each heading into a question by adding words such as "what," "how," or "why."

Read » Read carefully and actively. After a few paragraphs, stop to think about the main idea of what you read, the supporting details, and how they're linked together.

Questions-In-the-Margin » In the margin write a brief question about what you read. Then use a pencil to underline only the key words and phrases in the text that make up the answer.

Recite » Cover the textbook page, leaving only the questions in the margins showing. Recite your answers to the questions out loud if possible and then check your answers.

Review » Go back to the beginning and glance over your questions again. Try to remember the answers and get a feel for how the chapter fits together as a whole.

Reflect » Once you've mastered the facts, go back and think about them for a few minutes. Think about their relevance to lecture, how they fit together in the chapter, and try to integrate them into your existing knowledge.

By using either of these techniques, you will become a more active, thorough reader. Although they may seem time-consuming and difficult to remember, once you get in the habit of doing them, you will see they take up little extra time and are very valuable tools for learning. The interns at the Academic Skills Center can help you learn to implement these techniques and incorporate them into your regular studying. Email them at or call x3925 to make an appointment.