As college students, you must be able to read, understand, analyze, and apply information from textbooks and articles while learning the course content. It is helpful to have a range of strategies in order to meet the increased demands of reading assignments in college courses. Learning some deliberate reading strategies will help to make this task easier.

Pre-reading your text is one of the simplest ways to give yourself an advantage as you synthesize new information in your course. Pre-reading textbooks:

  • Supports comprehension
  • Reduces the amount of rereading that is required
  • Identifies the important topics covered in the book
  • Shows the organization of the content

Below are descriptions of the sections of the three main areas of a textbook: the beginning matter, the body elements, and the end matter. Ensure that you take the time to “get to know” your text, how it presents information, and what keys it gives you to sorting through and understanding the most important content elements.

Beginning matter

  • Table of Contents – gives an overview of features, chapters, and topics.
  • Student information section – provides ideas for students on how to use the text to the best advantage.
  • Preface – explains the purposes and approach of the book.

Body elements

  • Chapter title – establishes the topic.
  • Chapter introduction and/or objectives – outlines key ideas in the chapter.
  • Headings and subheadings – show how main topics and subpoints are ordered.
  • Graphic aids – organize and categorize important information in tables, diagrams, photographs, boxed items, figures, and bulleted lists.
  • Type/print style used – shows importance of words/ideas with font features such as size, boldface, italics, and underlining.
  • Sidebars – define important words and concepts.
  • Chapter summary – reviews the main ideas and lists review questions and  important vocabulary. Provides a review of the content of the chapter.

End sections

  • Glossary – an alphabetical listing of terms used in the text. Reading through the glossary can gives you a good review of the most important content in the textbook.
  • Index – an alphabetical list of topics covered and the page number where it can be located.
  • Bibliography – a reference list where additional readings can be found