Reading is a big part of each class.

Most college students, even after one semester, realize that reading is a big part of each class. Good reading skills are crucial for students to succeed in classes. Included here are some basic guidelines for reading textbooks, so that you gather and understand the information needed.

Get the Big Picture

  • Textbooks mainly begin with the general, and then grow more specific.
  • Look through the entire book first to find out how it is organized.
  • Read the headings—they often give an outline of the book's content.
  • Are key words emphasized (underlined, italicized, bold)?
  • Is there a glossary that defines these key words?
  • Does each chapter include a list of objectives, a summary and/or review questions? Use these.

Read the Preface

Even though it is not assigned, the preface gives information on the author's views and possibly gives information about the organization of the book that you did not notice.

Use the SQ3R Method

  1. Survey: Read the introduction carefully and then read the topic sentences of each paragraph. Look at figures, pictures, graphs, tables. Read summaries.
  2. Question: While skimming the information, make the headings, topic sentences, captions, etc. into questions and write them down. Example: A heading called "Symbols in The Great Gatsby" could be turned into the questions "What are the symbols in The Great Gatsby?" and "What do the symbols represent?"
  3. Read: Read the chapter word for word. Highlight and underline information in the book. Outline or diagram information on a separate sheet of paper. Look up unfamiliar words.
  4. Recite: Either while or after reading the material, recite or write out the answers to the questions you wrote while skimming. Try to come up with your own wording and examples, and write down additional thoughts you have about the material while reading and reciting. Check your answers and reread the sections that are unclear.
  5. Review: Look over the notes you have taken, and go over the material you underlined or highlighted. Have someone quiz you with your materials. Make flash cards for material that is hard to memorize. Carry them with you and use them when you have a few minutes here and there.


Email The Learning Center ( or call 574-372-5100, ext. 6421.