Guidelines: How to Read an Assigned Chapter

The most inefficient way of reading a chapter is beginning with the first page and reading it straight through. Instead a careful reading of a chapter should conform to something like the following sequence.

  •  Begin by carefully reading table of contents of the chapter and then page through it by reading headings and subheadings to gain careful mental picture of the way in which the chapter is organized and developed.
  •  Carefully read the preface, introduction and conclusion to the chapter.  Why?
    •  To get an overview of what you will be studying, e.g. how the chapter is organized, what study aids are included, etc.
    •  To give a purpose to your reading
    •  To find out how difficult the material is for you
    • To estimate how much time you will need to read the assignment  
  •  Only after you have a reasonable feeling for the purpose, organization, argument, and logic of development of a chapter you begin reading the full text. By this time you will be prepared to evaluate the chapter against overall argument and conclusions. This saves an immense amount of time and rereading.

What to look for in reading a chapter:

  •  Exposition: What the author is saying?
  •  Application: What evidence is produced to support authorís argument?
  •  Comparison and Contrast: How does the authorís work contrast and compares with that of others on this issue?
  •  Criticisms: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this work?
  •  Innovation: What if anything, is novel in this work?