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Student Learning Success Toolbox: Textbook Tips

A guide to library resources and student services at Austin Community College

Who can help me at ACC?

College may be the first time you had to use a textbook wthout help from your teacher.

  • If you understand how textbooks are organized, you can spend less time looking for information and reduce your study time.
  • Learn how to read critically: ACC Support & Services offers free online workshops
  • ACC Learning Labs can help you learn how to take notes while you read chapters in your textbook 
  • Student Lingo offers a great tutorial on Reading Comprehension

Common Parts of Textbooks

  • Table of Contents
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • Appendices

Common Parts of Chapters

  • Chapter Title
  • Chapter Objectives (what you will learn)
  • Side bars
  • Captions
  • Maps
  • Graphs or Figures
  • Pictures
  • Review Questions
  • Quiz

Ask yourself while you are reading...

  1. What will the author's main point be?
  2. What do I know about this now?
  3. How does this fit with what I have read before?

What if I am having trouble reading the textbook?

1. Learn how your textbook is organized:

  • Does it have chapter summaries? Is the summary at the beginning of each chapter or at the end?
  • Does it have definitions of key terms in the margins or key terms highlighted in bold?
  • Does it have an index? A separate index by subject or name?
  • Does it have a glossary or appendices?

2. Look at specific parts of  the book before you read your assignment: 

  • Look at the Table of Contents to see what topics are discussed in the chapter you plan to read.
  • Read the chapter summary before you read each chapter.
  • Are there quiz questions at the end of the chapter? You can use them to check that you made notes about the most important parts of the chapter.

3. Outline the chapter:

  • Take notes to fill in the details on the outline.
  • Write the definitions you learn in your notes.
  • Highlight important concepts.
  • Look for  answers to the quiz questions as you read.

4. Do not skip tables and figures, or the colorful boxes. All of these things have a purpose and help convey crucial information.

5. Make use of the  final section of each chapter. There is usually a summary with key terms that provides an overview of what has been covered.

6. If your professor has a course Blackboard page, look for PowerPoint slides that may highlight key concepts. They are NOT a substitute for reading and studying and taking notes on the details of each chapter, but they can be a good starting point.  

7. Do not sit down and try to read the entire chapter at once just so that you can say you have. Study the chapter in manageable pieces and use all the available learning tools - that will be time well spent.


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