Learn this four-step technique for reading course materials.  It’s probably different from what you’re used to doing, and there’s a good chance you’ll find it works much better.

  • First browse the entire section you’ve been assigned.  Let your eyes go where they want to:  check out the headings, bold-faced items, diagrams and figures, whatever paragraphs catch your attention.  Just get a sense of how the section is put together and what the main ideas are.
  •  

  • Next, look for summary materials the book might include.  There may be a chapter summary at the end.  There may be a preview, or a bullet list of important ideas, or a glossary of key terms.  Whatever forms the summary materials may be in, read them slowly and carefully.  Don’t expect to completely understand all the ideas, but let them start to sink into your long-term memory.
  •  

  • Then read through the assignment in sequence.  Highlight passages, make margin notes in the book, write things down in your notebook.  Take your time with this reading, and let the familiarity you gained by browsing guide your highlighting and note taking.  By all means, make marks in your book!  You own it, and marking it up as you study will help you tremendously in learning the material.
  •  

  • Finally, jot down ideas you don’t feel rock solid about understanding, after doing the reading.  Ask about these things – in class.
  • This four-step process won’t require much more time, but I think you’ll find you have a far better grasp of the material as a result.  Try it and see.  Oh, and keep your dictionary handy.  How else can you figure out what the sentence actually means, eh?

    Thanks to Dr. Stephen D. Cooper, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Communication Studies, for sharing these tips.