After doing a Goals, Tasks, Resources breakdown of your unit and developing a Study Plan, you are ready to begin, but before you jump in to your readings, you will want to preview your them.
A preview should be a brief overview of each reading or resource (other than audio-visual resources). You can do this for all of your Resources at once or for a few of them at a time, based on what tasks you will be using them on. When you preview, skim through the Resource to look for:
- Summaries: Most textbooks often summarize the content of a chapter in either the introduction or conclusions. Many articles also begin with a brief summary. (Note: You will also often find either summaries or other introductions for each reading in your online course materials. Be sure to pay attention to those!)
- Key Concepts: Most courses include a list of Key Concepts or terms in the online materials. Likewise, most textbooks and some articles will include either a list of key concepts and terms or else highlight or bold certain terms throughout each chapter. Note what these terms are and see if you can define them.
- Headings and subheadings: Most textbook chapters and many articles are broken up by headings and subheadings that help organize the content. As you preview a reading, make sure you note what the headings and subheadings are and what order they are in.
- Illustrations: Photos, illustrations, graphs, and charts often call attention to important ideas in the material. What images and illustration do you notice? What are they? What information do they call attention to? Which seem most interesting to you?
Once you have previewed your material, take a moment to list your questions. These could include questions about how the reading can help you complete your Tasks and meet your Goals, or questions about the meanings of particular terms, concepts, or ideas that were mentioned.
If you can’t think of any questions, try turning each heading and subheading into a question.
The biggest temptation for most new students is to read through theirs textbooks the way they read a novel or a newspaper story. It may seem less intuitive and slightly more time-consuming, but it’s ultimately more effective to preview your reading materials first.
This allows you to get a big picture idea of the reading materials, identify the most important and most difficulty parts of the reading, and helps you begin forming questions which you can then use the reading to answer. It also helps you remember what you have read longer and that will help you make better use of the material in your assignments.
Remember, the point of reading in a college course isn’t just to slog through a whole lot of information, but to actually remember and use that information to solve problems. Previewing is a one of the best tools for making sure you make the most of your reading time.