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Effective Reading

UNC student reading book in school of music.

July 09, 2019

There are a range of ways to read a textbook but what might be the most effective? To be an effective reader you should always read the summary paragraphs before doing any of the in-depth reading. Here are some tips: 

The basics

  • 1. Know what you are reading 

    Read the text beforehand so you have an understanding, background vocabulary, and concepts to absorb the lecture material.

  • 2. Stay Alert 

    Be aware on what you are going to read and what you will be getting out of the reading assignment. Remember to ask questions and interact with the material to get to know it better.

  • 3. Take Vocabulary necessary

    Knowing your vocabulary will make a smoother transition when reading. It is beneficial to spend time looking for definitions.

Some techniques

Develop a pattern. You can find patterns online, however, you can also develop your own! First thing is doing not start reading right away! Your first task is to get a sense of the big picture of what the chapter is covering. Therefore, you want to start scanning and skimming for the following for about 10 minutes or less:

  • Chapter Title: What are you going to be learning about?
  • Section Title: What is the progression of topics?
  • Information in Margins: How does it relate to the section title?
  • Graphics, Charts: What big concepts can you pull from them?
  • Highlighted Vocabulary: What terms are new to you?
  • Summary Sections: Each sentence will hold a key concept. What are they?
  • Review questions: What are you expected to know once you’ve read?

Now that you have scanned for those items…  your task is to know what the big picture is. Resist the urge to read the paragraph.


  • Read
    • Break down chapter into parts
    • Read in 10 minute segments
    • Ask yourself questions about the material
    • Read to figure out the answers to your questions
    • Highlight 
    • If you’re a note-taker by nature, copy the section title into your notes,
    • Read and pause at the end of each paragraph to write a summary sentence in your own words.
    • Consciously think about how new concepts are connected to concepts you already know.
    • Write summaries in the margins.
    • Look up vocabulary words in the glossary and make study cards
    • Relate the main point of each paragraph back to section title
  • Rephrase 
    • Put the book down and pretend you’re the professor.
    • Lecture an imaginary class (yes, out loud!) on the main points of what you just read rephrased in your own words.
    • If you forget something, glance back and repeat that section of your lecture.
    • For this to work, you need to be somewhere you can talk out loud, and you need to actually lecture.
    • If you’re more of a visual than a verbal learner, write, draw, or illustrate the main point of what you just read rather than lecturing.
  • Review 
    • Look back over the chapter and section titles and make sure you know how all the material is related.
    • Reread the summary
    • Remember all the main points.
    • Answer any review questions in the text- write and answer your own.
    • If you haven’t highlighted yet, this is a great time to highlight main points now that you’ve got a handle on the whole topic.
    • Start your next reading session by reviewing this chapter again before moving on to the next.

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