The First Step in Studying a Textbook:


The first step toward the successful completion of any course is to preview the textbook. Ideally, you should make this preview before the end of the first week of class. The textbook has been designed by the author as a tool for mastering the subject. Besides the text itself, it offers you special help such as the headings, italics, and footnotes to improve you efficiency in using the book. Previewing your textbook will help you to discover the:
  1. Purpose, limitations and scope of the book as stated in the preface or foreword.
  2. Degree of difficulty of topics listed in the table of contents and index.
  3. Extra help that the book will offer you in mastering the contents through summaries, glossaries, review questions and problems, books for further study, pointers to important ideas through use of italics, headings, marginal notes.  When you make your preview, look at each component of the book to see what help it can offer you in using the book and understanding what it is trying to teach.
  • Title - Reword the title to make a question.  Write down other questions that you think might be answered in the book.  Apply the classic six questions – who, what, where, when, how and why – to the title.
  • Author - Who is he?  What makes him an expert?  What else has he done or written?
  • Copyright date - Is the book up to date?  Have there been any new theories or developments in the field since the book was written?
  • Preface, Foreword, or Introduction - Does the author tell you why he wrote the book?  Does he recommend the best way to use it?
  • Table of contents - Turn the entries into questions.  Review what you already know about the topics listed.
  • Text chapters - Are there introductions to each chapter outlining the contents?  Is each chapter subdivided under different headings?  Are there maps, tables, graphs and pictures?  Is there a summary at the end of each chapter?  Are there questions, exercises, or other study helps for each chapter?
  • Glossary - Does the book have a glossary?  Is it at the end of the book, or following each chapter?  How many new words will you have to learn to understand the subject?
  • Bibliography - Does the author provide a list of other books on the subject to which you may refer if you want more detailed information?
  • Index - Read down this alphabetical list of the main ideas and people discussed in the book.  How many items are familiar to you? Remember that in addition to using the index for reference, you may also use it for review before examinations.  If you are able to read down the list of entries and remember something relevant about most of them, you probably have a good grasp of the subject.
*Christ, Frank L., Studying a Textbook, SRA. 1966