Reading Strategies

...since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned." ~ John Holt

Reading Strategies:

Reading is a thought process that involves figuring out what is important, what you need to know, and how you will use the information. Asking questions enhances this thought process by focusing your attention on key ideas and the connections among these ideas.

Read with a dictionary. Look up words you do not understand.

Start by becoming familiar with each text. Do a textbook reconnaissance. This can be very short, but find out what is in your text. Do textbook tabbing to make your textbook a useful tool. Try the SQ3R method. Francis P. Robinson, an Ohio State University psychologist, devised this system during World War II. The aim was to help military personnel enrolled in special programs at the university to read faster and to study better.

You may want to write questions in the margins or make notes. If you do not want to write in your text, use post-it notes or stickies. You can even get see through ones to use as highlighters. Make your text your own. Make it a good tool to use for review. Many texts have review sections in each chapter - mark these.

After reading your assignment, do not just close the book. Review in your mind what you have read. Tell it in your own words. Look again at the headings, bold face words, and questions. Make sure you understand and know the concepts. Come up with some possible test questions.

Reading a science text or math text will probably take you longer than reading a history, English, or other type of text. Make sure you understand the examples and diagrams. Ask for help in understanding. Most instructors are more than willing to help.

SQ3R Method

Textbook Tabbing by Eldon McMurray

Web Pages for Reading Strategies

Note Taking Skills:

  • Be an active listener.
  • Select ideas to write down.
  • Want to pay attention.
  • Go to all classes.
  • Come Prepared.
  • Be familiar with the material to be covered in class - read or skim material before class.
  • Sit away from distractions.
  • Review your notes soon after class and create a study guide for yourself.

  • Write every word.
  • Do not buy ready-made notes instead of taking your own notes.
  • Be negative.


There are several styles of note taking which are appropriate for college. Listed at the bottom are some of the methods.

Whatever style you choose, here are some basic ideas.

  • Write on only one side of the page.
  • Leave lots of space on each page, for adding headings, making connections, jotting down questions or details later.
  • If you use spiral notebooks, buy the kind that have perforated pages and holes for putting those pages into a three-ring binder. This allows you to tear out pages and insert additional pages, as you process and re-process your notes.
  • Label subject, date, and number each page.

Reflect, Relate, Apply: Making Notes You Can Use

Processing your notes within 24 hours of the class period is a final step in making sure you get the most out of attending each class. Note processing can be divided into three stages: reflect, relate, and apply.

Here is an overview of what processing your notes means:


1. Reflect:

  • Read through your notes. Get a general sense of the material.
  • What is the topic? What is the point of this lecture in the context of the course?
  • Identify parts of the notes. Group information as well as you can, using natural breaks, headings, etc. Review the overall structure and see if it makes sense to you.


2. Relate:

  • Evaluate your understanding of each piece of information in each group. Can you explain it in your own words? Look up terms and concepts you do not understand.
  • Evaluate the significance of each piece of information in each group. Can you identify the relevance of the information in the context of the lecture and of the course?


3. Apply:

  • Edit your notes to reflect your understanding. It should now be possible for you to rewrite your notes in a manner that will be useful both now and later. If your notes are clear, you might make connections or groupings, identify examples, or write down your own thoughts directly onto your existing notes. If you find that your notes are not well arranged, you might want to rewrite portions of them, using any note-taking style that seems appropriate for the nature of the material.
  • Review, review, and review your notes.



Note Cards: Advantages of note cards

  • You use more senses to create them - this helps you to remember the information. You can also use a different voice each time you go through them.
  • They are very portable. You can pull them out of your pocket to study while waiting in the car, on the bus, etc. They help you make use of small blocks of time.
  • Each week go through all your note cards. Put aside the ones you know. The ones you do not know keep in a stack to go through every day. At the end of the week, repeat the process.
  • Great final review or review for a test.

Cornell Method of Taking Notes

Modified Cornell Method of Taking Notes

Helpful Abbreviations for Notes

John Sperry method for Math Note Cards: This is a good method for both method and vocabulary note cards.

Web Pages for Note Taking Skills