Surveying Your Textbook
As soon as you buy your textbook, you should become familiar with its format
and features. As you survey your textbook, think about the ways you will use
the features it offers. Most college textbooks offer the following features:
This is a list of the titles of the chapters in the order in which they appear
book, along with their corresponding page numbers.
This is a list of topics arranged alphabetically at the back of the textbook.
index provides the specific numbers of pages that deal with each topic.
This is a list of specialized words and their meanings, arranged in alphabetical
order. Glossaries can appear chapter by chapter or at the back of the textbook.
A textbook usually begins with an introduction that discusses the
purpose and format. This introduction usually describes the features of the
book. An introduction is often also provided at the beginning of each chapter.
Chapter introductions often suggest questions or objectives to keep in mind as
you read. A summary is a brief paragraph at the end of a chapter or section that
condenses the material down to the main idea and major supporting details.
Textbook authors divide complex information into smaller sections to make it
easier to grasp. Each section is labeled with a heading. Some sections need to be
divided into subgroups and are given subheadings. These headings and subheadings
can be turned into questions that can be answered as you read.
At the end of each chapter, the author may supply a set of questions about
main ideas, supporting details, or specialized vocabulary. Reading these questions
before you read the chapter may help guide your reading by giving it purpose.
Answering the questions is an excellent strategy to check your comprehension
of what you have read.
Authors frequently use bold and italic type to draw attention to important
ideas and terms.
Graphs, tables, diagrams, maps, photographs, and other graphic aids support
the information explained in the paragraphs. Graphics make the information
more visually interesting and accessible to students who are visual learners.
Not all textbooks have all these features. However, you should take full advantage
of your textbook by creating a reading plan that uses as many features
as possible as you study. For example, SQ3R tells you to survey a chapter for
new or specialized words; a textbook that has put its content words in bold or
italic type makes them easy to spot during your survey. If the textbook provides
a glossary, look the word up and write study notes using the word and its definition.
As you reread the chapter, you can add to the general definition with examples
from the text as needed. By becoming familiar with an unfamiliar term
in this manner, you have increased your chances for comprehension and will
not be slowed down by unknown words.
Before you read, make a decision about how you will handle the textbook’s
features. For example, is it more helpful for you to study the graphics and the
captions that go along with them before or after you read the text in the paragraph?
(For more about reading graphics, see pages 687–710.) Think ahead, be
systematic, and treat your textbook and its features as valuable resources.