How do you guys read a textbook?

In summary: I think that this is due to the fact that I am more interested in the development of the mathematics than in the details of the mathematics themselves.In summary, most people find that they need to read the textbook multiple times in order to fully understand it.
  • #1
jamalkoiyess
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I am always trying to read textbooks (physics, in courses, or independently), and every time I end up in one of these situations:
  • The book gets too technical for me to understand, or mentions something I do not know.
  • The book goes on for too long and gets boring after the introductory chapters.
  • The author dwells too much on trivial explanations and the whole book starts feeling like a waste of time
All of these problems have a solution obviously, but whenever I see that one of these points is becoming apparent, I lose the flow and drop the book. So how do you guys keep a steady flow? or do you also drop such books?
Do you have any methodology to approach textbooks? A reference on the side? notes? Do you skip chapter? Do you start from the front page till the end or do you look at the index first?

My goal: to find out how to extract as much knowledge from the book before dropping it.
 
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  • #2
One does not "read" a textbook. One "works through" a textbook.
 
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  • #3
Vanadium 50 said:
One does not "read" a textbook. One "works through" a textbook.
That is assumed, am not reading them on a hammock :smile:
 
  • #4
I only read textbooks when I have a specific question that I need to answer.

I explore the field, and gain the understanding needed to answer the question by jumping around in several books. Text books as .pdf files can be searched faster than a printed book.

With time you will find that no textbook is a perfect fit for you. That is because your path gaining knowledge, is incomplete in a different order to the next book you open.
 
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  • #5
Learning from textbook is not the best. I prefer watching youtube videos and then reading about the topic on wikipedia or the brillian math wiki. The problem is that the higher you go the harder it is to find online lessons. Plato(the ancient greek) I think he said do not bother reading instead listen and I think he makes a point do not read silent read outloud.
 
  • #6
jamalkoiyess said:
That is assumed, am not reading them on a hammock :smile:

Of course. But what most people find is as you work through a textbook there are nearly always areas that do not fully gell, and you have to do a second or even third reading. And even then with some books you can leave it alone for some time, and work through it again, getting even more insights. This is just my personal method. I work through it quickly just to get an overview. Then more slowly and carefully, The good ones I reread them time and time again.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • #7
I'm not among the greater students, but I do love textbooks. I personally enjoy having physical copies. Most of the books I do not "read" the entire book, but I don't skim it. I normally read very thoroughly at least the first 3-5 chapters where a lot of the foundation is at, and so the later chapters is much easier to understand. Just as others have said and I feel like it's assumed I work through them as well. After that: Then it's usually picking the topics I need or want, and lots of post-its to get me to references very quickly because I am forgetful... review it later.
 
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  • #8
First, make sure to read the preface of the book in question. More often than not, the author has stated the goals of his development, and how his goals and development differ from the others that are out there. The author sometimes recommends how the book should be used, and what chapters should be read, and what supplementary material may be skipped at first reading. In addition, some authors express their success in introducing their own students to these ideas. This encouragement can help you when you get stuck.
Most textbooks at the high school level presented no problems in reading once, and for the most part it all stuck. At the lower undergrad level, I usually read once, but started having some problems. At upper undergraduate and some graduate level, I usually only read once, but I really started to have trouble.

Now in trying graduate quantum and relativity, I usually end up reading the chapters of the textbook as many as 3 or 4 times. I usually start from the beginning. If I seem to miss a point, but I think it is subsidiary to the development, I go on for a little while. In a book like Shankar QM, or Carroll Relativity or Topics in Algebra, by Herstein, I usually end up having go go back and try to understand the earlier material. In all cases, I try to do a good selection of problems in the textbook, and notes. In general, do not be afraid to revisit the earlier material. If you are reading and are not in a course, I know in my case, even years later, material that did not make sense at the time can suddenly start to make sense.
jamalkoiyess said:
  • The book gets too technical for me to understand, or mentions something I do not know.
  • The book goes on for too long and gets boring after the introductory chapters.
  • The author dwells too much on trivial explanations and the whole book starts feeling like a waste of time
Bullet point 1: Of course, the book mentions something you do not know. Otherwise why read the book? If the book is too technical, you can try a development that is more applied. In for example, In reading Carroll's book Spacetime and Gravitation, I sometimes read Hartle's book or Schutz's book to try to get a handle on material. Instead of Shankar, QM I might review sections in a elementary quantum mechanics book like Eisberg/ Resnick, or Gasiorowicz, etc.

Bullet point 2 and 3 : The book does not get boring. You mean it bores you. To get any further, you are going have to motivate yourself to go on, or you will have to find another textbook, possibly to return to it later. Sometimes, in reading a section in Carroll, I have gone back to an earlier chapter to reread material, and exclaimed, " Now I see what he was getting at"

By the way, it is also not just textbook material, that requires rereading. One time I was reading a 25 page description of a technical product. I was fortunate enough to have an organization that valued expertise over many other values. They let me read it over and over again. After maybe 3, weeks reading the same 25 pages, I found I had a comprehensive understanding of the product, how it worked and could develop simulation models, and supervise and teach others into it's use. Many co-workers including my boss had access to the material and quit in a day or two, and it just did not register with them. When my boss found out that I knew so much about the product, he modified my work assignment to make me the subject matter expert.

Moral of the story: Never be afraid to reread technical material, and take your time
 

Related to How do you guys read a textbook?

1. How do you guys read a textbook?

As a scientist, I typically read a textbook by first skimming through the entire text to get a general understanding of the content. Then, I go back and read each chapter in detail, taking notes and highlighting important information. I also like to make connections between different chapters and concepts to better understand the material.

2. Do you read every word in a textbook?

No, I do not read every single word in a textbook. Instead, I focus on the main ideas and concepts and skim over less important details. This helps me to save time and retain the most important information.

3. How do you take notes while reading a textbook?

I like to take notes by hand or use a note-taking app to jot down important information, key terms, and any questions I may have. I also make sure to organize my notes in a way that makes sense to me, whether it's by chapter or topic.

4. How do you stay focused while reading a textbook?

To stay focused while reading a textbook, I like to take short breaks every 30-45 minutes. I also try to eliminate distractions, such as turning off my phone or finding a quiet place to read. Additionally, I find it helpful to set specific goals for each study session to keep myself motivated.

5. How do you retain information from a textbook?

To retain information from a textbook, I use various techniques such as summarizing the material in my own words, creating flashcards, or teaching the material to someone else. I also make sure to review the material regularly and make connections to real-life examples to better understand and remember the information.

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