Textbook ``Study Reading''

Reading a science textbook requires a different method than the usual sequential page-by-page method you use for a novel or other book! Your mind will need to have some sort of framework or place holders to store the information presented in a chapter. So you need to create that framework first before you get to the meat of the material. Read the ``headlines'' first---the chapter title and the section titles. Scan the notes in the outermost column and look up the definitions of the vocabulary terms in boldface type in the glossary. Then read the Review Questions at the end of each section.

Note that all of this is done before you even read the chapter material! Only after you have built the framework will your mind be ready for the substance of the textbook. After you have read a section, then answer the Review Questions at the end. If you cannot answer a question, then read through the section again to get the answer. Clear up any confusion right then and there.

As you are reading the material, mentally process the information. This means that you need to actively do something with the information---anything that takes the material off the page and moves it through your brain: saying it out loud in your own words, summarizing it, fitting it into an outline, or explaining it someone else.

Record what you have learned and read. As a start of note-taking, you can underline only the major points (key words and ideas only!). Then write a brief summary of what you underlined---use the margins of the text, separate pages, or note cards.

At first glance this technique may seem to take longer than simply reading the text page-by-page. However, it vastly improves comprehension of the material and actually saves time in the long run. Rather than having to read the chapter several times and memorizing the wrong things, you can get the correct understanding of the material by reading the chapter once. Your study time is much more efficient with this method and you will do better on the exams. No need to cram for an exam (and fail it!) if you ``study read'' the chapters.

Homework Tips

Although these tips are addressed to my own students, most of these tips will also apply to students at other schools.
  1. Read each problem fully.
  2. Highlight all question sentences (ending with ``?'')---answer them.
  3. Highlight all sentences commanding you do something---do it.
  4. Pay attention to bold print or italicized print---it's important!
  5. When a problem asks ``why'' something happens, you need to explain the cause.
  6. Do not contradict yourself in your answer. Do not contradict yourself from what you said or graphed in a previous problem in the assignment.
  7. Explain your answers in a way that a non-astronomy student could understand. Your instructor grades only what you write down and he makes no assumptions about what you ``meant to say''.
  8. Record in your notes comments your instructor makes about the homework problems, especially those displayed on the board or screen.
  9. Come for an office visit before the homework is due (even to check that you are on the right track). There is a strong correlation between office visits (before due date) and high homework scores.
  10. Do the assigned reading.
  11. Look over the key posted outside the instructor's office---very helpful when studying for the exam. Keys are also available at the Library Reserve counter.
  12. Use the Learning Center for help: Basic Skills Computer Lab has very user-friendly software to help with your math and grammar. They also have peer tutoring. If you have difficulty with the mathematics, ask for a MATH tutor. If you have difficulty with a physics concept, ask for a PHYSICS tutor. Use the tutors for getting the concepts. Use the computer lab for getting the practice.
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last updated: August 31, 2013

Is this page a copy of Strobel's Astronomy Notes?

Author of original content: Nick Strobel