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  • 8/12/2019 How to Read Text Book


    How to read your textbook

    Read actively, not passively. "Passive" means you're just a spectator, an onlooker, a bystander.Passive reading is how you would read a popular novel: you just read page after page to find outwhat happens net. !f you read tetbooks this way, your rate of retention will be very low, accordingto studies on learning behavior. "ctive" means getting involved with the material, processing it insome way. #ou are a participant, not a spectator. $elow you will find several ideas on how to readactively. !f you force yourself to develop the habit of active reading now, while you are in college, it

    will profit you throughout the rest of your life.

    Before reading a chapter. %irst, read the chapter's introduction. &any tets list the chapter'slearning objectives at the beginning of each chapter read them. (hen, read the heading or title ofeach section and subsection in the chapter) this will take only about two to five minutes *unless thechapter is horribly long+. (hen read the chapter's conclusion or summary. -oing all of this takesmaybe / minutes, or even less. !f you do this first, then read the chapter from start to finish, youwill derive several benefits: you'll know what the chapter is about, what are the main issues itaddresses, and you'll know in advance where the chapter is going. s you're reading the chapterfrom start to finish, you'll understand the details better since you'll have a sense of how and wherethey fit in. (his techni0ue also makes it easier to read the chapter, and often makes the reading go

    a little more 0uickly. nd it alerts you in advance to the important things that you need to get out ofthe chapter.

    !f something comes up and you just don't have time to read the whole chapterwhen it is assigned, itis far better than nothingto take / minutes to do what ! just described: read the intro, read thechapter's section headings, then read the summary and conclusion. (his is a very efficient way ofgetting a 0uick feel for the material, or at least an outline of it. lso, doing this *rather than notreading the chapter at all makes you much less likely to feel lost in class when your professorcovers this material or subse0uent material that builds on it.

    Write in the margins. &ost introductory econ tets *and many other tets have nice wide margins

    1se them. 2rite notes in the margins. %or instance, when you really start to understand the logicbehind something and can eplain it in your own words, write down your eplanation in the margin.*!f you want to sell your book back at the semester's end, the book buyback people probably won'tnotice your marginal notes, and the student who buys your book net year will benefit+

    Read with pencil and paper. s you read through the chapter, every time a new term or conceptor definition is introduced, copy down the term and its definition. (hen leave some space in yournotes. (hen as you read more about this term later in the chapter, you can add a few sentencesabout the importance or relevance of this term, or other related concepts.

    3conomics uses lots of models, which are usually represented with a graph. 3very time your tet

    introduces you to a new model, write in your notes the following things:

    (he name of the model.

    (he purpose of the model *for eample, the supply and demand model shows us how themarket price and 0uantity are determined.

    -raw a copy of the graph or diagram that goes with the model. 4arefully label the aes and

    the curve*s. %or each of the curves, write down what that curve shows and eplain why it has a positive,

    negative, hori5ontal, or vertical slope. %or eample, the demand curve shows therelationship between consumer demand for an item and the price of that item. !t has a

  • 8/12/2019 How to Read Text Book


    negative slope because, other things being e0ual, an increase in the price of an item makesthat item less attractive or affordable to consumers, causing a decrease in the 0uantity thatconsumers demand.

    %or each curve, write down a list of things that will shift the curve, and briefly eplain howeach of these things shifts the curve. %or instance, the demand curve for most goods willshift to the right in response to an increase in consumer income. Reason: at any givenprice, consumers are willing and able to buy more of the item.

    !t's also a good idea to go through these steps when models are introduced in your lecture notes.!t's a thorough system for studying models, and will prepare you for a variety of test 0uestions onthe model.

    Throw your highlighter away. $elieve it or not, highlighting the important parts in your book is apassive activity: all you are doing is pushing a marker over the page. If you think something inyour book is important, then write it down in your notes! !f you just highlight it, then you'llforget what it means or why it is important five weeks later when you are reviewing for the eam.

    lso, if many different things are important, you'll soon find that the color of the page has changedfrom white to yellow, and how does that help you6 7ot much. nd finally, studies show that formany students, highlighting is actually worse than doing nothing: it gives a false sense of security

    and accomplishment, but all students have really done is pushed a colored marker across the page.

    Make bulleted lists. &ost tetbooks, especially principles books, give you various clues thatsomething is important. %or instance, they typically put important terms in boldface or color, putdefinitions or key ideas in the margin, and highlight the importance of an e0uation by centering it onits own line, with space above and below the e0uation.

    2hat happens when you come to a section in your tet that has none of these features, justparagraph after paragraph of plain old words6 -oes this mean the section is unimportant6

    Probably not. !t means that you have to find the clues yourself: you have to figure out what'simportant. (his is not hard to learn to do, and it is an incredibly valuable skill.

    8ere's a good way to do it: Read the section. %igure out what is the section's main point, and writeit down in your notes. (hen write a bulleted list of the supporting points or related informationalpoints.

    8ere's an eample from Principles of Macroeconomics, a tetbook by 7. 9regory &ankiw that'swidely used at 17; and elsewhere. !f you happen to have this book, take a look at the section ofchapter / entitled "9-P and 3conomic 2ell$eing", which starts at the bottom of p.

  • 8/12/2019 How to Read Text Book


    eo+ent ,enned +ote c" GDP &o" not di"ect %e#s"in$ +#it o& i&e/ non-%#te"i# !e-

    ein$/ etc GDP ecdes the #e o& eis"e i& peope t#3e %o"e ti%e o&& !o"3 to spend !ith %i/ GDP $oes

    do!n t !e-ein$ %# $o p

    GDP ecdes the +#it o& the eni"on%ent !4o "e$#tions/ &i"%s %i$ht e #e to p"odce %o"e

    (!hich "#ises GDP) !hie !o"senin$ the eni"on%ent* GDP ecdes the #e o& non-%#"3et #ctiities/ een tho$h these #ctiities #"e p"odctie #nd

    i%po"t#nt* E#%pes chid-"e#"in$/ ontee" !o"3*

    5o!ee"/ i$$e" GDP %#3es it e#sie" to #&&o"d the 3inds o& thin$s (edc#tion/ $ood he#th c#"e) th#ti%p"oe non-%#te"i# !e-ein$

    C#se std (p212) sho!s th#t cont"ies !ith hi$he" GDP pe" pe"son tend to h#e hi$he" i&e

    epect#nc #nd ite"#c "#tes (!hich #"e t!o non-%#te"i# indic#to"s o& !e-ein$)

    otto% ine GDP is not # pe"&ect o" co%p"ehensie %e#s"e o& # n#tion's !e-ein$/ t it's sti

    p"ett $ood*

    2hen studying for your eam, which you do think would be easier to remember: a bulleted list suchas the above, or the tetbook's two and a half pages of paragraph after paragraph of plain oldwords6 ! rest my case.

    s you continue through college, and on into your professional career, there will be countlessoccasions on which you must read various materials and determine the most important points. %oreample, in your junior and senior years in college, you will probably have to write research papersusing newspaper articles as sources. (he last time ! checked, the Wall Street Journaldid not putimportant items in boldface or provide any of the other clues that are often found in tetbooks. >owhat do you do6 &ake a bulleted list about each article.

    Practice with end-of-chapter problems

    !n my years of teaching economics, !'ve made an important observation. >tudents enjoy the class

    more, learn more, and get better grades when they are re0uired to do weekly homeworks. &aybeyou think this sounds insanewhy would anyone be happier when they are forced to do morework6 2ell, it's not that students are particularly thrilled about having to do homework all the time.$ut these homework assignments force them to keep up, to practice, to work actively with thematerial. s a result, they come to class with a deeper understanding of the material, which makesclass more interesting and makes it easier to understand new material as it's introduced. fter thesemester is over, student feedback is always more favorable if ! re0uired homeworks than if ! didn't.

    8ere's why homeworks are so beneficial: (he homework problems actively engage you with thematerial. ;irtually every epert on teaching and learning techni0ues will shout at the top of his orher lungs that the best way to learn is to actively engage yourself with the material. *>ee the

    section how to read your tetbook effectivelyfor more on active learning.

    !f your instructor is already assigning regular homeworks, great+ $ut if regular homeworkassignments are not part of your course grade, then try to carve out two hours a week *or howevermuch time you can afford to work on the 0uestions and eercises at the