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How to read a biology textbook?

  1. Feb 14, 2008 #1
    Reading a biology textbook is obviously different than reading a math textbook. I tend to have to re-read the chapters in my biology text quite frequently. This is very time consuming considering that I am taking 23 credits this semester. So I was wondering if there are any techniques that one could use in order to boost there comprehension of the material, in this case biology being the material. Thank you for the advice and help in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2008 #2
    I've completed a 23 credit semester. One technique for boosting comprehension is to take less credits. However, you are already on the ride, so you might try doing some concept mapping or other note-taking while you are on your first pass through the material. Include page numbers; that way you can review your concept maps and cross-check anything that doesn't make sense during your review.
  4. Feb 14, 2008 #3
    yes, I have heard of the concept maps before, but I do not fully understand how to construct one. I know that they are more beneficial because the brain learns through connections as oppose to the linear style of note outlining. Do you make concept maps? If so, how do you make them, is there a good website that you could reference me to? Thank you!
  5. Feb 14, 2008 #4


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    Yes, concept maps are really great tools for learning biology. It's basically constructing a flow chart to relate concepts. If your library has Campbell's Biology text, there's a study guide that accompanies it that includes an introduction to concept mapping. It forces you to think about the relationships between topics and helps you identify where there are gaps in your knowledge (i.e., you know X leads to Y, but realize you don't know what to write over the arrow explaining HOW X leads to Y, you know you have a knowledge gap to fill).

    Some concept mapping tips and how-tos:
    And here is a site with some concept maps that are already started for you, so you can use them as a template to understand how to do them, or if they are the topics you're currently learning, you can use them to start your concept maps.

    My other suggestion is not to read the book several times. Instead, skim the chapter quickly before you go to lecture, so you have the gist of the topic and what the book chapter covers, and identify anything that leaves you really confused. Focus in on illustrations and any content highlighted in boxes...these are often placed there because they are either key concepts or difficult ones to grasp without added illustration. Then, go to lecture. If the lecture doesn't clarify the things that were unclear when you skimmed the text, that's something you'll want to stop and ask your prof about after class, because you know that going back to the book won't help on those topics. While you're taking notes, also mark up anything that you think is a bit fuzzy for you in the lecture but you recall was in the textbook...circle it, highlight it, write a giant question mark in the margin, whatever works for you...then go back and read that part of the chapter in depth to fill in the missing information in your notes. Now everything you need should be in your notes for studying. You can always review some sections of the chapter while studying, but it's not the same as reading the chapter end-to-end repeatedly.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2008
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