Reading Science Texts: 7 Strategies to Practice

Preparation: Have paper, pen, pencil, sticky tapes (Post-its), graphing calculator, highlighters and your textbook before you begin.

You will take a different approach to reading your science texts than your math texts.

  • Take 20 minutes to become acquainted with the overall organization of your book so you can find information quicker. This is a one-time strategy for your textbooks.
    • Look at the Table of Contents to see the progression from subject to subject.
    • Look at the organization of several chapters to see the author’s pattern. (Intro, overview, ideas, examples, summary, problems, additional readings, etc.) This pattern helps you anticipate what’s coming as well as estimate the time required to cover the material as you progress in each course.
    • Look at the index, vocabulary lists, list of illustrations, list of tables to see how extensive they are and if they help you find ideas, concepts, and facts quickly especially for review or fact checking.
    • Find out if you have access to the eBook version (these are searchable and easier to find forgotten references or ideas). Also see what online resources the publisher has to assist your learning. Use them and ask your instructor’s opinion of these resources.
    • Finally, look at the course syllabus to see if the reading assignments are following the layout of the book or if the instructor is using a different progression. Note: all progressions depend on prior knowledge and your instructor may be emphasizing different ideas from those of the author. [What does this mean to a freshman? How each chapter is organized? Intro-subject-examples-problems-vocabulary???? I would just clarify it]
  • Create or find a reading space that is not distracting nor will it put you to sleep in 10 minutes.
  • Skim the chapter first. Note the various headings to determine if everything is new information or building on prior material. Then begin careful reading. If the book has a summary or questions at the end, use this material to quiz yourself.
  • While reading, pay attention to graphs, charts, and boxes. Do not skim over these. Make certain that each makes sense to you within the context of the reading. If they don’t flag them with a sticky tape or other method. Write down your question about what is not clear to ask in class or on an electronic forum.
  • Highlight main heading, topics, and vocabulary words that are new to you. Do not mark everything else the markings become meaningless. Mark the main ideas and/or things that are unclear.
    • If you plan to resell your textbook, instead of highlighting the text, put a sticky tape or Post-it on the page to mark the material as important or that is unclear.
  • Write anticipated test questions either while reading each section or go back over the readings and create your questions. These can be turned into a game in a study group.
  • Read your chapter assignments BEFORE you attend the lecture. You will be able to mark concepts you do not understand and become familiar with the vocabulary words.
  • Always try to re-read the chapter assignments AFTER class to reinforce the material and further explain misunderstood information.