Strategy 22: How to Use a Book
Version Date: November 11, 2015
Wait--shouldn't the title say, How to Read a Book? No, this is about
using a book--manhandling it and getting it to confess--while you read.
Method for Print Books
1. Get an overview of the reading assignment or the book itself.
2. Get some metainformation about the book. Metainformation is simply
information about information. In the case of a book, this includes:
- Read the title and the subtitle. The subtitle often tells more about the book's content than the main title.
- Look over the table of contents. This gives you an overview (or
conspectus, if you want a fancy word to impress your friends) of the
book. If you've been assigned or are interested in only a chapter or
two, the table of contents will show you the context.
- Read the back cover. With hardcover books that still have a dust
jacket, read both the back cover (who endorses the book? How is the
book promoted?) and the jacket flaps. The left flap usually describes
the book's purpose, and the back flap has an author biography, setting
our his or her credentials.
- If the book has an index, glance over it to see what topics are
indexed. This will give you an idea about the subjects of discussion
and what the author holds to be important. Also look over the people
mentioned in the index to see whom the author discusses.
- Look at the bibliography. What are the sources the author used? I
saw a book recently that cited almost exclusively Internet sources.
That seems odd for a book emphasizing that it is research-based.
Metainformation reveals the cultural status of the book, which often
aligns with its quality. However, if the subject or the author's
position is controversial, then the book's metainfo is likely to be
very skewed, and a book either highly praised or condemned might be
because the reviewer doesn't like the book's argument or conclusions.
Metainformation often includes the names of other books on the subject
or rebuttals to the book's arguments. If the book you are to use
discusses controversial subject matter, then look up the controversy:
- Published book reviews
- Reader book reviews (such as the reviews on Amazon.com)
- Web or blog reviews (Just google the book title followed by the word review.)
- Locate commentaries or analyses (such as literary criticism) as appropriate or desirable.
3. Read. Use these strategies.
- Google the subject term or phrase followed by the word controversy or opposition.. If you don't find a lot, try rebuttal, refuted, arguments against.
- Google the subject term or phrase followed by a word such as evidence, proof, support, reasons.
- Read the chapter introductions
- Read the headings of each chapter
- For chapters you want to cover completely, read the first sentence of each paragraph.
- Read the chapter or book as appropriate
4. If you own the book, use Annotation Techniques.
5. Make a super book. Trim paper to the book page size and paste in extra pages that include:
- Underlining. Underline important words and sentences. Put a
check mark next to especially important sentences and an asterisk next
to quotable sentences.
- Marginal notes. Make comments, ask questions, paraphrase,
summarize or otherwise respond to the reading as you read, while the
information is still fresh in your mind.
- End of Chapter Notes. Summarize the chapter briefly in your own words.
- Boxing. Draw a box around significant paragraphs that you want to review later.
- Color coding. Use various colos of highlighter
to indicate different things. Yellow for knowledge claims, orange for
evidence, green for anecdotes, or whatever suits your need.
- Home-made Indexing. Make your own index, customized to your use of the book.
- comments, rebuttals, additional evidence, examples
- drawings, graphs, color photographs or other illustrations
- definitions, explanations
- cross references
- blank pages for you to add whatever comes to mind as you read
Remember that as you read, you do not have to believe everything you
read, nor do you have to reject it. Simply file the knowledge claims
(the statements that the author asserts as true) in your mind as "this
is what is claimed to be true." As you later gain more knowledge, you
will at some point probably be able to move the statement from Claimed
to True or to False.
Learning Strategy 1: Mnemonics
Learning Strategy 2: Paraphrasing
Learning Strategy 3: Summarizing
Learning Strategy 4: Self Monitoring
Learning Strategy 5: Self Explanation
Learning Strategy 6: Mental Rehearsal
Learning Strategy 7: Self Assessment
Learning Strategy 8: The SQ3R Reading Method
Learning Strategy 9: Note Taking
Learning Strategy 10: The Leitner Flash Card
Learning Strategy 11: Maintaining Interest
Learning Strategy 12: Conversation
Learning Strategy 13: Group Interaction
Learning Strategy 14: Idea Mapping
Learning Strategy 15: Drawing Pictures
Learning Strategy 16: Study Cycles
Learning Strategy 17: Sleep and Rest
Learning Strategy 18: Fluency / Automaticity
Learning Strategy 19: Learning Strategy Checklist
Learning Strategy 20: Asking Questions
Learning Strategy 21: Idea Linking
Learning Strategy 22: How to Use a Book
Learning Strategy 23: Active Listening
Learning Strategy 24: Close Reading
Learning Strategy 25:Analogies
Learning Strategy 26: Power Thinking
Learning Strategy 27: Planning for Learning
Learning Strategy 28: Outlining
Learning Strategy 29:
2011, 2015 by Robert Harris | How
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About the author:
Harris is a writer
and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the
and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com