EP8: How to mark and highlight text books for review.

We cover how to highlight, what to highlight, how much to highlight, and how to review highlighted material.

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to the show. This is Episode 8, Season 1 of The Autodidactic Podcast. Today we’re going to discuss textbook highlighting.

If you’re new to the show I would like to welcome you and if you are returning, I’d like to welcome you back. As always, I really enjoy getting feedback for this show. So if you’re interested in giving me some feedback, you can email me at rick@autodidactic.info. You can make comments on the website as well where I will be uploading the show notes for this show as well as others.

Why should you mark up your text books?

When done correctly, text marking promotes active reading, condenses the

material for later review, increases your comprehension, and serves as a mini

comprehension-monitoring system.

Active reading

By marking your textbooks as you read, you can achieve a high level of concentration and knowing that you should mark specific sections as you read helps keep you alert. It gives you a purpose for

reading. To mark your text effectively, you have to think about the content of the chapter. You constantly need to make decisions about what’s important and what isn’t.

Condense Material

Because you are highlighting the important areas, there is not need for you to read the entire section again for review. You only need to review the highlighted areas.

Increased Comprehension

Identifying and marking the main points and then looking for supporting details help you understand the text. When you highlight you’re effectively reading twice, because your eyes will follow the marker and reinforce the reading.

Feedback on comprehension

Highlighting also monitors your comprehension because it gives you feedback on if you are paying attention. If you’ve highlighted everything, then it means you have not been looking for the important information and making decisions about what is or isn’t important. If you haven’t highlighted anything in a large section it means you’ve not understood well enough, or that you were distracted while reading.

So how do you go about marking up your textbook? The main two methods are underlining or marking with a pencil. You can use either, but I would recommend that you use a highlighter, since this forces you to read a second time. You might think you get the same effect with underlining but studies have shown that people tend to look at the pencil like rather than the words. Highlighting doesn’t have this disadvantage.

Before you underline or highlight anything, you need to have completed the reading of the section. After you’ve read the section, have a little think about what parts were important, then go back and find those areas and highlight them. Don’t mark anything until you complete the section. If you start marking right away then you might mark something important which actually isn’t. In addition marking while reading interferes with comprehension.

When you do mark, make sure to highlight in the direction of the text to force a second reading. Don’t highlight the text backwards. You also should you a soft shade like yellow or pink, this is because highly fluorescent colours tend to cause eye-strain when you go back to do your reviews.

When marking, markup sentences where possible. If you ‘re highlighting keywords, then you need to use linking to connect them together. While marking just try to remember to mark things in a way that they’ll make sense when you review a month or six months later. This is why it is better to mark meaningful phrases instead of just words.

I recommended you only do highlighting, but don’t throw away the pencil just yet. While you’re marking up the textbook use your pencil to make notes in the margins. Mark margin notes about areas where you disagree with the author, or put a question mark if you need more information about this particular point. You can use margin notes to make a summary of the keywords and creating a link between them.

But don’t over use the margin notes. You defeat the object of highlighting if you’re creating huge summaries in the margins.

Keep It Simple Stupid – The kiss principle.

Diversity is great, but not when it comes to text highlighting. You’ve probably seen people who have 10 different colour highlighters and they have one colour for facts, one for opinion, one for keywords, another colour for examples, etcetera. I would advise against this. It makes you think more about the colouring than the content. Using two colours is really the maximum.

One thing about colours however. If you’re using a used textbook which has already been highlighted make sure you get a different colour for your highlights. This might be difficult if the previous owner was a multiple-colour highlighter.

Another time consuming exercise in futility is the multiple symbol method. This is where people underline, double underline, circle, bracket, use asterisks, etc. The idea being you have a set of symbols you use to encode the review material. This is very time consuming, and often leads to over-marking the text. You spend too much time thinking about the system instead of the content.

A simple system will help focus on the important information without the distraction of remembering various symbols, or colour combinations.

Now that we have discussed how to mark, the next step is figuring out what to mark. In the past you’ve probably caught yourself thinking; “I wonder if I should mark this?” Until you become experienced at marking, it’s better to mark a little too much rather than not enough.

There is no real set of rules for what you should mark. But, headings, subheadings, main ideas, supporting details, definitions, examples, and statistics are important. Even though they’re not always identified by bold or italic print. So let’s go through some good practice guidelines for marking up information.

Mark headers. It is very likely that headings in the text are important, since typically, they are a summary of the most important idea of the section.

Mark the main ideas of the section. Main ideas are the general statements that the author makes about the topic. The main idea statement, or topic sentence, is generally found in the first or second sentence of a paragraph. Sometimes authors don’t directly state the main ideas; they only imply them. However, as you practice looking for these main ideas you’ll find the implied ones. You want to write the implied idea in the margin notes.

Focus on the supporting details. Look at definitions, examples, facts, statistics, and signal words, etcetera. You should absolutely highlight definitions, and perhaps even load them into a SRS, spaced repetition program in order to learn them off by heart.

Look through the examples and highlight where the example is illuminating the idea.

Lists or enumerations, like definitions, should almost always be highlighted. They contain itemised information.

Facts or statistics are also worth highlighting a because they will support the main idea.

Some important information is found outside the regular body of the text. You need to read and mark any definitions for technical terms, even if they’re in the left-hand margin. Don’t omit information included in charts, graphs, and other diagrams. The information under photos, in footnotes, and in boxed features is also important to your understanding of the material.

For Math or Science books make sure to highlight all formulas, as well as any problems that

you want to review. Be sure you also mark the text material that explains or discusses that formula or problem. The prose material material is as important as or perhaps even more important than the problems.

Finally it is probably worth highlighting negation words like, but, however, on the other hand, conversely, etcetera. This is because they are showing a change in the authors direction in this area. So you’ll need to highlight them in order to avoid confusion later when reviewing.

So now we know how to make, and what to mark, how much should we mark? Well, the correct answer is “just enough”. But what does that mean. Firstly, you don’t want to over mark since this will lengthen your review times, if you highlight everything, you might as well just read the book again. You need to be actively looking for important ideas and information.

However, being overly concerned about over-marking can lead to another problem which is under-marking. Marking too little means you’re probably only marking the headlines or key words. But you should also highlight related details. You may miss important information by trying to pick out only one or two important points in each paragraph or headed section. You may have heard or read that you should mark only one main point in each paragraph or that you shouldn’t mark more than 20 percent of the words on a page. This might be good rules-of-thumb, but actually you need to mark all the information which you need in order to understand and retain all the important information.

So both over-marking and under-marking are a problem. Just like Goldie-locks you need the find the one that is just right.

Remarking and review. After you’ve marked your textbook, on the next review don’t leave the highlighter behind, pick a second colour for your second review. So I recommended you only use one colour when you highlight, but this time you’re not highlighting, you are re-highlighting and therefore you need a different colour from the first time.

The idea here is if you have to remark the material you are once again engaged and actively reading the material. As you reread the marked selections, you can determine whether or not the information is important enough to review again. The first time you read the chapter, everything was new

to you. At that time, many things may have seemed important. After having completed the chapter, worked through text questions or a study guide, read or listened to other material, you should be able to reduce the text material even more.

When you review you might also want to rewrite and summarize the information into a notebooks. One really good method of review is to generate a mock examination from the information on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t make multiple choice questions however since this might lead you to remembering incorrect information. Write a broad question for each heading or subheading and then

as many specific questions as you can.

After your review, have a think about your markings.

  • Did they make sense?
  • Did you mark all the important information the first time around?
  • Does the markings retain and contain the meaning of each section?

Giving yourself feedback on your markings will help you in future markings. You’ll get better at it as you go along. For an autodidactic, there probably isn’t going to be a test or examiniation in your future. So you’ll need to review your books periodically and having a good well thought out set of markings will reduce the time you need for review.

That is all for today, thanks for listening and I’m glad you joined me. Next week, we’re going to talk about taking lecture notes. Thank you very much.

EP7: Textbook Study Methods

Today we’ll go through three reading and study methods, P2R, SQ3R and S-SUN-R. These methods help to increase comprehension and retention of information when using textbooks.

Welcome to the Autodidactic Podcast with your host Rick Dearman.

Hello, and welcome back to the Autodidactic Podcast. This is Episode seven Season one. Today I’ll be covering the topic of studying and reading textbooks and the methods that you can use to read textbooks in order to get the most out of them.

I’ve struggled to record the podcast this week because I’ve been so busy myself studying. I recently began or rather re-started doing some assembler language programming using a raspberry pi. And this led me down a rabbit hole that had me reviewing various microprocessors. And assembly language instructions on day finally down to electronics and on creating an eight bit computer with a bread board on some chips. One of the reasons for mentioning this is I’m planning to do a short podcast sometime in the future that discusses how you can keep yourself from being distracted from your primary goal of learning and study and not going down a particular rabbit hole because you find something interesting and go off on a tangent. But that’s for a later date.

Today we’re going to discuss text reading and studying and there are a lot of systems for doing this, but today we’re going to cover three of them in particular, So let’s get into it.

The three systems that I’m going to talk about today are called the P2R to reading and studying system, the SQ3R studying system and the S-RUN-R reading and studying system. Now there are probably at least a dozen different systems developed to help students understand what they read, and they’re all very similar.

We’re going to discuss these three today, but it doesn’t really matter how you use each system or how much of it, and you just need to choose the one that works best for you. And you might discover that one method might work well with one type of study, and another one works better with a different type of study. Or you might decide to mix-and-match and chop-and-change to create your own method as appropriate. And all of that is fine. It’s not a problem, but these are the standard systems that most people will be taught if they are taught a reading and studying system.

Most people don’t like to teach or to learn long complicated systems, and although some systems are very long and do work, the students don’t use them because they take too much time. So you can try and get a much out of your textbook as you can with a simpler approach.

And now the first one we’re gonna talk about is a three step approach called P2R and it’s designed for textbooks from easy to average level of difficulty. This isn’t for the really difficulty or information dense textbooks, but more of the sort of, you know, easier level or average level.

So you use the P2R to on the entire chapter or on 10 page chunks. If the chapters are too long, all right, and basically, what you’re doing is your previewing, you’re reading it actively and then you’re reviewing it.

So the first thing you do is you preview the entire chapter or the 10 page chunk that you’ve chosen to study and you actively read by highlighting or taking notes as you read. And then finally you review using an active strategy, such as reciting it, answering your review questions or writing questions in the margin. So that you’re not just sitting there reading the text chapters. You need to be engaged, actively reading and reviewing.

I mentioned this in a previous podcast where I said, When you study, you should be writing yourself out little test questions so that you can give yourself quizzes weekly and and examination monthly, sort of thing. So the three steps again, our preview read actively in review.

So in the preview, you should always preview the chapter before you read it, and the preview is a brief overview of the chapter, which you do before reading. So previewing doesn’t take a lot of time or effort, and you can usually do it in like five minutes. So the first thing you do is you read the title of the chapter, then the introductions, the outline, any structured overview. You look at any visual displays of key information at the beginning of the chapter, etcetera.

If it doesn’t have an introduction or an outline, you just read the first couple of paragraphs. And as you turn the pages of the chapter, read all of the headings. Anything that’s in bold print, have a look at any pictures or tables or graphs. But you know, don’t bother reading the text that the bulk of the text that goes along with it. Here you’re just trying to get a summary in your head and an overview of what it is you’re going to be studying. If you don’t have a lot of information, visual tables, that sort of thing. What you can do is just read the first two paragraphs and the last two paragraphs in order to get sort of a summary.

Once you’ve previewed, write down any information that you gleaned while previewing, right yourself. Some sample questions describe a brief summary of it of what you think you’re going to get and then move on to active reading.

Now, the second step is active reading, so you need to be doing something whilst reading. So one way that you could become an active readers by marking up your text and you see a lot of people do this with markers, you know you’re going through and you’re highlighting things. So after you read a paragraph or a headed section pause to think about what you read and then go back with a highlighter to mark any material, you think you want to review again. So that you’ve highlighted any information that you believe will be relevant to yourself, and you’re trying to condense this into a summary for your review later.

Now you can run into a lot of problems with highlighting, and I’ll probably wind up doing another podcast where we just discuss highlighting text, because many people over highlight things. But just keep in mind when you’re when you’re highlighting. You’re just trying to highlight things that will be useful and relevant in summary later.

Okay, so you’ve completed the first two steps, and then the final step is the review. So after you’ve completed your chunk of reading or at the end of the chapter, you need to review and do something to reinforce the important information. Now there’s a number of ways that you can review the text material, but the four most common ones are.

  • First, you look at your highlighted entries or the notes, and you read them aloud. You write questions in the margin of your text or notes at the end of each chunk, and then when you finished reading the entire chapter, you recite the answers to your questions
  • Secondly, used the headings to recite the key information on cover the details with your hand and then recite using only the headings as a clue.
  • The third ways to do some or any exercises or questions they may have at the end of chapter. Many textbooks have this sort of thing, at the end of chapters.
  • And finally, you can take the end of chapter tests or online test to review and monitor what you’re learning.

You don’t need to use all of these strategies, but you should try as many of them as you can, after you complete your reading. And then try and find the one that works best for you that allows you to remember the most. Now the advantage of the P2R reading study is it’s very efficient with text material by previewing actively reading and then reviewing your text. You should be able to significantly increase your comprehension, and you may find it takes less time to read the chapter, and then you have an increase in interest, and it builds up a background for your comprehension.

Previewing the chapter basically builds up this background before you start reading and then it reduces the reading time. You would think that previewing would appear to add time to your reading, but it probably reduces the total time it takes you to read the chapter and you can test this yourself. Just select a section in a chapter, and time yourself is you read it and then select another one where you’ve done the previewing and then read it and, you know, figure out which chapter took more time.

You generally find that you’ll get an increased interest in the chapter because of the previewing. And this is especially true when you’re reading something that you find boring. Because as you preview, you may notice a particular topic in the middle, which seems more interesting. And then you’ll be able to read to get to the good stuff as it were. And then because you’re reviewing periodically either 10 pages or a chapter, it helps you reinforce this information that you get, and without reviewing, you can’t really be sure that you understood the material and that you need to be quizzing yourself and then marking up your your the text or taking notes.

In addition to aiding your comprehension will actually help you prepare later for another review. Or if you do have actually to take examinations, it’ll help you when you’re reviewing, for for those sort of things. So that’s the first system. The P2Rreading system, and then the next one we’re going to discuss is something called the SQ3R. Now the SQ3R was developed by a fellow called Frances Robinson in 1941 on is probably one of the most widely taught system. So if you’re going into a sort of a high school or university, someone probably would teach you the SQ3R system.

What does it stand for? SQ3R is an acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. And this time we have five steps. And use these five steps to review textbooks. Some of the steps are very similar to those in the aforementioned P2Rmethod, but the main difference is that the steps were performed on each headed section rather than on 10 page chunks on whole chapters.

So, as you see, this difference makes this particular method a bit more time consuming. Because of this, you may want to save that SQ3R for more difficult textbooks. And because although it will take, ah, lot of time, many people find this a bit more effective for longer or more advanced textbooks.

So the five steps are:

Survey- So you survey the chapter before you read it. You go through the chapter quickly, you glance at the headings, you read the final paragraph to get a general idea and the main points so very similar to the previous method and then question.

Question – Before you begin to read each headed section of your chapter, you turn the heading into a question. For example, you may have a heading “housing population” and so you would typically turn that into a question. What is and then the heading, But formulating a question forces you to think about what you’re going to read before you read it.

Read – So the next step is to read the material underneath the heading to try and find the answer to the question which you generated. Turning heading into a question helps you focus your reading, and the reading in this section helps you locate the answer to your question. Hopefully, and so you’ll get actively involved in the reading material. As you read the selection, see if you can answer your question and then the next bit is recite.

Recite – So at the end of the section the headed section, recite the answer to the question that you formulated. Recite the answer in your own words, though, so that it’s a summary without looking back at the text. And if you can’t recall part or all of the answer, then go back to the section again and then try and jot down the answer in a sort of an outline or a summary form. But don’t take any notes until you’ve read the entire section, and then the next step, the final step is review.

Review – So after you finished reading through entire chapter, look over the notes that you made to familiarize yourself with the important information and then check your memory by covering up your notes and reciting the main points out loud, and then cover each point in your notes and recite subordinate points that you’ve noted. So this type of review should only take five minutes because you’re only review in a very small subset of what you’ve, that you’re only studying a small subset.

Some of the advantages is that it breaks the task down into very small segments and has a built in comprehension system. There’s a great deal of repetition here, so this is another advantage because it allows for repetition of important information. And because you’re focusing on smaller segments of the material. If you’re focusing on smaller segments of a really difficult or advanced textbook, it can make it a lot easier for you and very helpful. Because it’s a smaller chunk and it feels more manageable and you’re not being overwhelmed. And then, of course, you have your built in comprehension model / monitoring because you’re you’re testing yourself on this, repeatedly as you go through.

You can change this to be more effective. You don’t have to use it for every reading assignment. Usually you would only use it for difficult textbooks. You know this this method the SQ3R method, because with easy text, the other system that we mentioned before the P2R are is probably easier to use with smaller, less information dense text.

And you you wanna formulate a broad question. Because typically these textbooks have a lot of information just in the headed section. You know, just in that sentence, you can generate a lot of open ended questions like; What is; Why is; How does this work? etcetera and then highlight the answer to your question.

So instead of just reading as you’re going through, make sure you’re highlighting the answer. So when you find the answer to your question highlighted and then recite the headings as clues and, the highlighted answer. And now this may be able to be used with some mnemonic techniques that we talked about last week. To help you try and remember the journey through the textbook. And then at the end of the chapter, you need to go back and review all of the questions for all of the headed sections. So this is the repetition piece. So you you’ve done each, say you’ve got 10 headed sections, you’ve done all 10 of them. You have 10 questions, and at the end of the chapter, you go back and you review all of them.

The final system I want to talk to you about is called S-RUN-R. The S-RUN-R system was developed by a lady Nancy Bailey on this combines review steps to better help you with your comprehension on because you’re focusing on one section at the time. This is also a useful technique for difficult or advanced textbooks which are, information dense.

The five steps here are S, survey and then you have R, read U, underline, N, note taking and then review.

Survey again is you simply serving the entire chapter. You read the title introduction headings, subheadings, summary, etcetera. And this is very similar to the previous two, try and build up a background and interest. So this isn’t going to take you long. It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to do, and it has taken you longer than five minutes. Then you’re probably you’re probably reading too much or stopping too long to look out illustrations or tables or whatever.

So after you’ve done that, instead of formulating a question before each section, you write the heading of the section that, the section heading, on a piece of notepaper and then just copying out the heading makes you pay attention to it and focus your reading. And then you read the section as if you would, you know, reading any other text material and then critically thinking about the material as you’re reading it.

Now, after you finish each paragraph, think about the important bit of the paragraph and underline or highlight only the important bit. So if the important bit is just a single word, just highlight that one. Or if it’s one sentence, highlight that. If you’re highlighting the whole paragraph, chances are you’re over highlighting. For now. Just just think about the information you think you may need to recall and highlight the particularly important information. Now, as soon as you’ve completed all the highlighting for the entire section, so you’ve highlighted paragraph by paragraph and you you’ve completed that section. Then you need to open your notebook and start taking some notes.

So you take notes on the key information, which you should have already highlighted and briefly summarized this information in your own words. And then you skip to the next line on write the notes of meaningful phrases as you do it.

So you have in your notebook, you would basically have the heading title that you’ve written down. You have a brief summary of the section in your own words and then underneath, slightly indented, you put in the highlighted information, the important relevant bits. But you don’t copy what you highlighted. You’re paraphrasing what you’ve highlighted in your own words because, paraphrasing and making it your own will help your comprehension.

Then the final bit is review. So once you’ve completed the entire chapter, you’ve highlighted everything and you’ve done your note taking then you try and recite the key information that you wrote down under the heading. Try and do the end of chapter questions. If there are any. Try and predict the questions that you may get or create self-tests for yourself in order to practice. So this is the review information, and you can do this at the end of each chapter, or you could do it slightly later, but you should try and do it as soon as you can.

Now, the advantage of using this particular system is that it highlights all the important information in every section in every paragraph, and it increases repetition as well, because you get more repetition of the important points because you’re not just highlighting it. You’re actually having to rewrite it and paraphrase it into your notes, and so it will increase your comprehension and hopefully your memory. And then it prepares the text for review later, so if you need a go back and review it, the relevant important information is already highlighted. It matches information in your notes, and you’ll be able to review it quite quickly.

In summary, textbooks are generally different from any sort of normal book that you may be reading. They’re generally written at a higher reading level, they are longer and they’re more information dense. So they don’t just seem harder. They actually are harder. You need to try and keep on top of this on.

Understand what you’re reading and use a reading strategy while you read to try and retain the information. Try and learn to be a critical reader so that you think about evaluate information as you’re reading. Now, using these three systems P2R, the SQ3R or the S-RUN-R will help you increase your comprehension as you as you go through it. The whole point of these is to try and get you actively involved in your reading. So you may find that you only need to use a really simple system like P2R when you’re reading textbooks to get yourself engaged. Or you may need to use one of the more complex systems in order to get a good comprehension or to chunk up the material into a smaller piece that you’re you can work your way through. Or you may decide to just adapt these systems to make it sort of roll your own where you mix and match the best bits.

So you might decide that you like the note taking idea. But you want to use the P2R more simple system. So you may combine P2R our with with note-taking.

That, in summary, is the three main methods. There are many, many other methods, and you could go out and find as many as you like. But I recommend you try one of these three, or try all three, and see how you get on with your information.

Now, obviously, this is for reading textbooks, and it doesn’t really help you, necessarily, if you’re watching videos or you’re, listening to audio. Or you may be doing sort of massive online classes where you’re actually in a lecture and you need to do lecture notes and things like that. So we’ll cover that sort of information later. And what we’re gonna call that is taking lecture notes. So although it may not be, actual lecture notes, in other words, you’re not in a formal lecture. You’re not sat in the classroom. But you might be watching, for example, a YouTube video on how to construct an eight bit assembly language computer with a bread board and you’re gonna decide you’re going to take notes because he’s effectively giving you a lecture. The person with the video.

Whatever the subject is you’re studying. If you’re doing lecture type material like YouTube videos or some of these paid for systems or Khan academy or whatever, you want to take notes to retain that information on, and I know that you could just go back and watch the whole video. But if you just walk to the 30 minute video and there’s only four important points. Do you want to go back and review 30 minutes? When actually, there’s only the relevant bit is two minutes long.

So I want to talk about lecture notes. But one of the things that we also need to review, which goes along and sort of dovetails with this particular podcast is highlighting and marking up textbooks and organizing text information.

Okay, that’s it. So that’s the three methods that I think you should try. The P2R, the SQ3R or the S-RUN-R systems. So next week, we’re going to talk about marking up your textbook on using a highlighter and organizing textual information. So these three podcast dovetail together. It is all about reading, reviewing and studying text books.

I’m hoping that next week I’ll be able to get marking, highlighting and organizing text information all into the same podcast. But if not, and it runs long, then we may or I’m a split it up.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please, please, please tell other people. I mean if if everybody who listen told two people and they listened I might get up to I don’t know, six listeners. But seriously, if you can spread the word, it really helps me out a lot, and it gives me the incentive to carry on. Okay, Well, that’s the end of the podcast. Thank you very much for listening. I hope you enjoyed the information. And I hope you find it useful. And I’ll see you again next week.

Thank you for listening to the auto didactic podcast with your host Rick Dearman, if you enjoyed this podcast, please consider giving a donation by a Paypal. Thank you very much, and see you again next time.