How to Read a Big Fat Chapter:I know it can see m overw h el m i n g whe n you are given a whole chapter of atextbook to read. It’s a skill to be able to not only read the infor matio n, butun d er stan d it and be able to re m e m b e r it as well. It’s a skill you will nee d inyour further stud i e s. Hopefully this gui d e will give you so m e pointers on howto ‘attack’ a big fat chapter…1. Read the last bit first.Yes, it may see m like a strange place to begin, but try starting with theconclusio n of the chapter. The conclusio n usually su m m a r i s e s the wholechapter, telling you briefly what has just been written about. Read theconclusio n and ma k e write so m e questio n s fro m it. You can then use thesequestion s to gui d e your readi ng of the rest of the chapter.Another si m ilar way of starting the chapter, is to read the introd u ctio nTHE N the conclusio n so you are effectively getting two brief su m m a r i e s ofthe chapter, whic h will give you a good idea of what you are going to readabout before you have even started diggi ng throug h the heavy stuff.The question s you should have written base d on these two sectio ns of thechapter could be things like Why di d X happe n ? What cause d X to happe n ? Who was X? Why was he or she so i m p o rtant? When di d X happe n ? How does X link to X?
Make sure you do write a few ‘dee p er’ questio n s that ask about the causesofthings and how they affect each other, not just ‘who is…’ and ‘what is…’question s.2. Scan the chapterEven thoug h you have now read the start and en d of the chapter, you arestill not quite ready to dive into the guts of it just yet.Next thing to do is scan throug h the pages focusi ng on the sub h ea d i n g s of allthe different sections. Write one or two questio n s per sub h ea d i n g. The n readthe first one or two lines of that section. This enables you to createi m m e d i ate links to the infor matio n you have just learne d fro m readi ng theintrod u ctio n and the conclusio n.Creating those links as quic kly as possible helps to really set that kno wle dg ein your m i n d , hopefully avoidi n g those m o m e n t s whe n you catch yourselfreadi ng the sa m e paragraph 4 ti m e s and still having no idea what it wasabout! By readi ng the first couple of lines of each chapter you may even beable to answer so m e of the questio n s you have note d dow n.3. Looking at and organising your questionsBy now you have a dece nt list of questio ns about the contents of the chapter.It is i m p ortant that these are written so m e w h e r e in an organize d way (notjust in the margi n s of the chapter!) so they can be use d to gui d e your readi ngof the chapter and also so that you can really focus your attention to ma k i n gsure you get the answers !Try typing the m up into a list, or into a m i n d ma p, or grid or whatever styleyou like. Have the m printe d off or have your co m p u t er ne xt to you whe n you
start to read the chapter so you can add in the answers straight away. Thes equestion s and their answers will be your notes for the chapter.4. Divide the pageRight, now you are almost ready to jum p right in to the m i d dl e of all the newlearning you’re about to do!Look at the page in front of you and see if you can break it up in to dece ntsize d ‘chu n k s.’ This will help you to ma k e the page m ore ma nageable. Usehig hlighters or textas or pens to actually ma k e mark s on the page so you cansee what the sections are. Gone are the ti m e s whe n you look at a page andthin k ‘My God, there is no way I can get throug h that.’ Your highlighters arejust about to show you that is not true! Of course you can, just not all in one‘chu n k .’5. Only now are you ready to dive right inOk, so by now you should have: • read the introd u ctio n and conclusio n and written questio ns based on these • scann e d the chapter and written questio n s based on the sub h ea d i n g s • read the first 1- 2 lines of each of the sections of the chapter • have an organize d list of questio n s ready for you to refer to and take notes on • divi d e d up the first page into chu n k sIf you’ve don e all of this then you are ready to read read read. Make sure youhave your questio n s ready ne xt to you, a hig hlighter (or pen or texta orwhatever) in your han d ready to go.
Read your first ‘chu n k .’ Stop. Highlight anythi ng that see m e d reallyi m p ortant and relevant to you. Di d this sectio n answer any of yourquestion s ? If so, jot dow n the answers – DO NO COPY WHOL E SEN T E N C E SINTO YOUR NOTES. They are notesand sho uld be written briefly but withenoug h detail that you will un d er stan d the m later. NOT FULL SEN T E N C E S . Ifyou copy full sentenc es fro m the text, then chances are you will use thatexact sentence in your work – that would be plagiaris m and is co m pletelyunacceptable. Writing the infor matio n in brief notes m ea n s that you will beforced to put it into your own words later – a m u c h safer thing to do.Now, on to your next section. Hig hlight. Stop. Write any notes that you nee d.Next section. Hig hlight. Stop. Write any notes you nee d.You can also add extra question s to your list as you go and you can writeother notes on the page that you are readi ng (provi d e d it’s not so m e o n eelse’s book ! ). There is nothi ng to say you have to stick to the questio n s youhave set yourself. They are just there to gui d e you with your readi ng – toma k e sure that you have a focus for the effort you are putting in to gettingthroug h the chapter.Ah, yes, I can hear you screa m i n g already – “but doi ng it like this is going totake AGES!” Well, yes, it will take longer than if you just sat there and readfrom start to finis h BUT – you will have an organize d, useful set of notes you will re m e m b e r m ore of it afterwards and will be able to use what you have learned in your assign m e n t s you will avoid readi ng the sa m e paragraph over and over witho ut really taking it in
That ma k e s it all worth it then. It m ea n s you are not just wasting your ti m ereadi ng so m et h i n g that you will forget by the ne xt class.GET TO IT!