THE FIRST STEP IN STUDYING A TEXTBOOK: PREVIEWING*
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:
- Purpose, limitations and scope of the book as stated in the preface or
- Degree of difficulty of topics listed in the table of contents and index.
- 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
- 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
- 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
*Christ, Frank L., Studying a Textbook, SRA. 1966
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