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Effective Textbook Reading Skills

by Jane L. Magrath

Woman reading textbook

Everyone looks for ways to be more successful. To accomplish this goal, the key is to set up a management plan for completing a lesson or course, check it frequently, and revise when necessary. Jane L. McGrath presents the following plan to approach reading and studying textbook assignments.


three arrows formiing a circle


The Reading Cycle

Pre-Reading Strategies
Reading Strategies
Post-Reading Strategies
Steps of the Reading Cycle


 PLAN: Pre-Reading Strategies

• Establish a good physical environment.
• Relax and set a positive attitude.
• Review instructions.
• Review lecture notes.
• Set your purpose.
• Preview the assignment.
• Organize your thoughts.
• Determine what you want to know when you finish reading.

DO: Reading Strategies

• Be actively involved.
• Check your comprehension as you read.
• Restate ideas in your own words.
• Form mental pictures.
• Compare what you are reading to what you know.
• Answer the questions you developed during pre-reading.
• Fix-up your comprehension when needed.
• Define unfamiliar words.
• Keep the problem on hold and hope it will clarify itself.
• Re-read a portion of the text.
• Compare information with notes or another source.
• Ask someone for help.

REVIEW: Post-Reading Strategies

• Consolidate and integrate information.
• Answer questions.
• Test yourself.
• Participate in a study group.
• Space your review over time.
• Decide what else you need to know.


The Steps Explained


Textbook Reading Strategy Explained

The more you know about each stage, the better you will be able to apply it to your studies.


Reading Skills Web sites
computer, books, notes
Basic Textbook Reading Strategies

Reading College Texts Here is an excellent strategy to use when reading your textbooks. (Bucks County Community College)

21 Tips for Better Textbook Reading Right to the point information! (Niagara University)

How to create interest in what you read (Niagara University)

Quick Tips to Better Reading (Niagara University)

Prereading An essential reading skill to increase comprehension (Niagara University)

Survey Reading Techniques (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Reading Your Textbooks Read and remember what you read (Middle Tennessee State University)

PRR: How to Read Your Textbook More Efficiently PREVIEW - READ - RECALL at first glance seems to be an intricate and time consuming process. However, it gets easier and faster with practice, ensures thorough learning and facilitates later "re-learning" when you review for exams. Give it a try! Scroll down to the Reading section. (University of Texas at Austin) PDF file

Reading Your Textbooks Effectively and Efficiently Reading myths and SQ3R (Dartmouth College)

Finding Main Ideas (Columbia College of Missouri)

Critical Reading Am I really thinking about what I'm reading? Scroll down (University of Texas at Austin) PDF file

Critical Reading Learn how to ask many questions as you read (Niagara University)

How to Read Difficult Material What to do before, during, and after you read (University of St Thomas)


 Reading in the Disciplines

man reading book

Preview Read Recall in the Natural Sciences What's different about reading in scientific disciplines? Find out here! Scroll down to the Reading section. (University of Texas at Austin) PDF file

Reading Assignments in Science Excellent guidelines for better reading (Study Guides and Strategies)

Summarizing summarizing textbook chapters, essays, and journal articles scan enhance your reading and can be excellent test preparation. (Niagara University)

How to Read Essays You Must Analyze Step-by-step process for reading essays. (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)


How to Mark Your Textbooks

Marking a Textbook (Alexandria Technical College)

Maximize Comprehension by Marking Your Texts and Marking a Chapter (Cuesta College)

Mark Your Books Why? When? How? Scroll down to the Reading section. (University of Texas at Austin) PDF file

Marking Textbooks (Columbia College of Missouri)

How to Vary Your Reading Speeds

Guidelines for Skimming Here are some important considerations before you tackle this skill. Scroll down to the Reading section. (Niagara University)

How to Read with More Speed and Efficiency Ten steps to better reading (University of St. Thomas)

Scanning and Skimming These skills are not reading but rather looking for specific information. Learn how to use this reading speed when you study. Scroll down to the Speed Reading Section. (University of Texas at Austin) PDF file

Find the Right Pace as You Read Scroll down to the Speed Reading Section. (Niagara University) ASC logo to return to Contents.
Information used with permission of the author. © Jane L. McGrath  

This site was created and is maintained by Barbara J. Speidel, SWC Academic Success Center Coordinator. @ Barbara J. Speidel

The ASC logo was created by Andrew C. Rempt. @ Andrew C. Rempt

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