How To Read A Textbook
The following strategy,SQ4R, is built around
the idea that what you do before and after
you read is as important as the reading itself. Learning
is an active process which requires concentration
and energy. Understanding and using the following
strategies will increase your comprehension and your
retention of the information.
Look over a chapter for a few minutes before studying
it in depth.
- Read the title and introductory paragraph(s).
Fix the name of the chapter in your mind. Often the
introduction to the chapter supplies background for
recognizing the purpose of the chapter. It may also
state specifically the method of development the
author intends to follow.
- Read headings, subheadings, and italicized
words. Go through the chapter heading by heading;
these will form a topical outline.
- Read the summary at the end of the chapter.
Reread it to see which ideas the author restates for
special emphasis or what general conclusions he or
she comes to. If there is no summary, read the last
sentence or two before each new heading.
- Use the chapter survey to activate your prior
knowledge of the subject. Recall what you already
know about the subject by trying to anticipate the
chapter's main points.
- Use the chapter survey to predict the
predominant thought patterns.
- Use surveying to anticipate which portions or
sections of the chapter will be most difficult or
- Use the survey as a guide to what is important
- Highlight, mark or underline key information
mentioned in the survey.
- Use the survey to monitor the effectiveness of
- Test your ability to recall the key information.
- Review immediately any material you were unable
Formulate questions in before you read the material.
- Turn each heading and subtitle into a question.
Form questions from all three sections of the
"Levels of Comprehension" attached at the end of the
packet (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?). You
should be able to answer these questions when you
finish reading and studying the paragraph, section,
- Restate the questions from headings to help fix
them in your mind. These questions give purpose to
your reading. Remember that reading is thinking, and
good students think while they read.
Read the material.
- Read only the material covered under one heading
or subheading at a time, and look for the answers to
- Read ideas, not just words.
- Take only minimal notes while reading.
- Read aggressively, with the intent of getting
answers, of noting supporting details, and of
- Apply the 50/10 rule for studying; read for 50
minutes and then take a 10 minute break. You will be
able to sustain longer study times with better
concentration and retention.
Do "question-read-recite" for each subheading.
- Answer the questions that you raised before you
began to read. Answer fully, and be sure to include
the reasons the author believes the answer is true.
Recall the answer and do not refer to the book.
- Tell yourself the major concept(s) of the
section. Put the ideas into your own words.
If you simply read a textbook chapter, you
will probably remember less than one-third of what
you read by the following week. In two months, you
will remember about 14 % of the material, hardly
enough to do well on a test. In order to transfer a
greater portion of the material you read from your
short-term to long-term memory, you must do
something active with the information to help
"attach" it to your memory. If you take time after
reading each section of the chapter to recite the
information, you will ensure that more of it goes
into long-term memory. If you recite, you are likely
to remember 80 % of what you read after a week and
70 % after two months. Now check your answers by
referring to the book.
Take notes from the reading.
- After having read a section and reflected on
what you have read and questioned yourself about the
material, you are ready to take notes. Taking notes
at this point in time will almost ensure that you
are noting the important parts of the section. Go
back over the paragraphs and highlight or underline
only the main ideas and supporting details with no
more than 10-15% of the page highlighted. Use
marginal notations as a way to separate main ideas
from examples and each of those from new
Review the material.
*Remember, the more senses you use in storing
your information, the better your retrieval and
- Look over your notes and the headings and
subheadings in the text. Get an overall view of the
- Recall supporting details under each main point.
- Predict test questions based on these main
points, especially questions which would fall into
the critical and creative levels of reading
comprehension. Try true/false and completion-type
questions from details. Essay questions are easy to
make from the main headings. Answer your test
*Francis P. Robinson, Effective Study, 1941