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Study Tips: Reading

This is a system the University of Texas, Austin publishes on their website (

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!


Why? If you give your mind a general framework of main ideas and structure, you will be better able to comprehend and retain the details you will read later.


  1. Look quickly (10 minutes) over the following key parts of your textbook to see what it's all about and how it is organized:
  • Title
  • Front and back cover info.
  • Author's biographical data
  • Publication date
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction or Preface
  • Index
  • Glossary
  1. Before you read each chapter, look over:
  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Sub-headings
  • First sentences of each paragraph (should give main idea).
  • Any diagrams, charts, etc.
  • Conclusions or summaries
  1. Then answer the following questions:
  • What is this mainly about?
  • How is it organized?
  • How difficult is it?
  • About how long will it take to read?

Read Actively

Why? Being an active reader will involve you in understanding the material, combat boredom, and will increase retention.


  1. Set realistic time goals and number of pages to be read.
  2. Divide your chapter into small (1/2 page? 1 column?) sections, rather than try to read the whole chapter non-stop.
  3. Ask yourself a question before each paragraph or section, then seek its answer. This will give you a definite purpose for your reading. Try inverting the sub-heading or first sentence into question form, using "who," "what," "when," or "how" if necessary.
  4. Take breaks when you feel unable to stay with the material due to day-dreaming, drowsiness, boredom, hunger, etc. After a short break, you can return to your reading with more energy and alertness.


Why? Research shows that 40 - 50% of the material we read is forgotten very shortly (about 15 minutes) after we read it. Immediate recall is an essential first step toward continued retention of the material.

How? After reading each small section of material, choose one (or more) of the following methods:

  1. Recall mentally or recite orally the highlights of what you have read.
  2. Ask yourself questions (maybe the same ones you used before you read the section) and answer them in your own words.
  3. Underline and make marginal notes of the key words or phrases in the section. Underlining after you read is the best way to decide what's the most important information to remember.
  4. Make separate notes or outlines of what you have read. This technique often works for more technical material which you need to put into your own words.
  5. Recall with a friend. What you don't recall, he/she might.


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