Maximize Comprehension by Marking Your
following ten suggestions will help you mark your textbooks so they will be of immediate and lasting value to you. On the
back of this page is an illustration of a section of a textbook that has been marked according to these recommendations.
1. Read first and then underline selectively. Make conscious decisions about what to underline and limit the amount. Too much underlining is difficult to study
later and often becomes a mechanical process that requires little thought. Read a section of material first and then go back
and underline only the words and phrases that most accurately state what that chunk of material is mainly about.
2. Box transitions and number important ideas. Making transitions stand out in the text helps you locate the ideas. When you box such words as first, for
example, next or finally, you not only locate important ideas more easily, you also see how they relate to each other.
3. Circle specialized vocabulary.
Write brief meanings in the margin if you need to. You need to know these terms to understand the textbook and the instructor,
and take the exams.
4. Jot down main ideas in the margin.
At the end of a paragraph, stop and ask yourself, "What was most of that paragraph about?" Write the answer in as few words
as possible in the margin. This is an especially useful technique for short dense assignments that are difficult to understand,
such as those in philosophy, physics, or chemistry.
5. Label Examples (ex). When you
encounter an example, determine what main idea -it exemplifies and label it. It will help you understand the main idea when
you study later.
6. Write your own ideas, including connections with your other classes, in [square brackets]. If you are reading actively, concentrating and understanding, you will also be thinking.
Jot down the ideas that occur to you either at the top or the bottom of the page and bracket them to indicate they are your
own. Your recorded ideas will make later study more interesting and will also provide ideas for class discussions, papers,
7. Write questions as you read.
Questions help you think, relate new material to what you already know, and wonder about implications and applications. All
these mental activities help you learn the material in the first place and remember and use it later.
8. Write brief summaries at the end of each section of material, and later; at the end
of chapters and the book. Use the white space throughout the book
to write summaries. Write them in brief phrases only. They should answer the questions "What was this about? " and "What did
the author say about it?" Summarize your own words as much as possible. Don't read and write at the same time, or you will
end up with too many notes.
9. Make outlines of obvious major ideas in the margins. Outlines are a visual representation of ideas and their relation to each other. At times, obvious transitions
will make the ideas stand out. When you encounter such material, write brief outlines of the ideas in the margins.
10. Make maps. Outlines force you to isolate and
organize important ideas so you can visualize them and thereby understand and remember them. Writing ideas in map form accomplishes
the same thing. You can map major sections, chapters, or even entire books. Experiment with summaries, outlines, and maps
and decide which work best for you.
- Cuesta CollegeSkip Navigation Link
Textbook Study Method
Surveying a Chapter
Marking Your Text
Marking a Chapter
Effective Textbook Study
Finding the Main Idea
How to Mark a Section of a Textbookhapterd
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Using Abbreviations To Write Notes Quickly
Many of the questions you find
on class tests will be based upon the information your teachers orally present in class. Therefore, you need to write class
notes that completely and accurately include the most important information presented by your teachers. This is hard to do
because your teachers can talk faster than you can write.
It would be nice if your teachers
talked slower so that you could keep up with what they are saying as you write your notes. This is not realistic though. It
is up to you to write more quickly. One way to do this is to write abbreviations for words. An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word used when writing to represent the complete word. You must
be able to recognize the complete word from its abbreviation.
Many words have a commonly
used abbreviation. Here are some examples of words that have a common abbreviation:
You can form your own abbreviation
for just about any word. Here are three ways you can do this.
1. Write just the beginning of a long word. Here are some examples of long words that have been abbreviated
by writing just the beginning of the word:
2. Leave out the vowels when writing a word. Here are some examples of words that have been abbreviated by leaving
out the vowels when writing the word:
3. For words that have just one syllable, write just the first
and last letter of the word. Here are some examples of words that have been abbreviated by writing just the first and last letter
of the word:
Use common abbreviations of
words whenever you recognize them.For other words, form abbreviations by using one of the three ways you just learned. Use
the way that best fits the word for which you are writing an abbreviation. Do not try to abbreviate every word you write in
your notes. Abbreviate those words that are important and for which you can quickly form an abbreviation. REMEMBER: YOU MUST BE ABLE TO RECOGNIZE THE COMPLETE WORD FROM
ITS ABBREVIATION. Knowing the context
in which you wrote the word will help you recognize the complete word from its abbreviation.
abbreviations for words will help you take good notes more quickly. Having good notes will help you do better on tests.
Annotating a Text
Active Reading & Annotating a Text
is the practice of writing brief notes in the margin of a text to capture the gist of paragraphs.
Why throw away the highlighters?
often complain that they have too much to read in too little time. Yet when they read, they basically just read or move a
yellow highlighter along with them, thinking this very passive way of reading will help them remember the most important
information from a book. While this may work some of the time, the problem with this strategy is that before a test,
people must go back and read the text again - or read everything that is yellow (which could be a lot!). It is really like
reading all over again, because very little is remembered from the first time.
is much more useful is a strategy that will allow you to:
- Read a text well the first time
- Reduce the clutter
- Find the main idea
- Put information in
your own words
- Begin the process of
committing the information to memory.
- Throw away the highlighters
and pick up a pen or pencil instead.
step in reading actively texts of any kind is annotation. Annotating is the composition and entry of a brief phrase
in the margin of a text.
1. Quickly survey what you are about to read to get an idea of the main
purpose of the reading. You do this by reading the title, headings and subheadings of the chapter or section, as well as by
scanning the pictures, illustrations, charts and graphs. This process should take no more than a few minutes.
Begin reading in "chunks" -- that is, take the information in small sections or paragraphs. When you are done reading
a small section or paragraph, go back and underline the most important points.
3. Then, in your own
words, summarize the information in brief words and phrases -- not sentences (it will take too long and that defeats the purpose!).
This will help you check your understanding of that section and reduce the text to what is most important. Do not tell yourself
you will do it all when you are done with the chapter; chances are you won't, and you won't remember each paragraph anyway.
Take the time to write the summaries after each section. Have an ongoing conversation with yourself. Talk out loud
if it helps, asking yourself, "What did I learn here?" or "What is the gist of this section?"
- A good annotation identifies a single idea
- Its entry is usually no more than three or four words.
- Any entry longer than a short
phrase takes time and wasted time defeats the purpose of an annotation.
- Note word patterns
- Circle unknown
- Keep track of
the idea as it unfolds
Avoid excessive underlining.
The aim is to underline only 25% to 30% of the text.
the objective of underlining: to select only the information that is important for understanding and for test preparation.
this way, you will only need to read the underlined portions at review sessions. Underlining almost all the text has
the effect as having underlined nothing, because the practical outcome is that you have to read almost everything again when
Ways to avoid excessive underlining:
only key words or phrases that identify major points, rather than complete
sentences and/or long passages.
numbered or lettered list to make major details stand out, instead of underlining.
-Use vertical lines || or brackets
 to mark out longer passages that are important or contain
helpful extended illustrations, rather than underlining everything.