Finding the Key Points in a Textbook

There’s really no question that you need to know what you’re looking for in a lecture to take good notes. In fact, let’s face it, it’s really difficult to take notes on something, let alone study it, when you have no idea what’s important and what’s not. It is important to note, however, that your lecture is not the only place in which you may find important information because your textbook, especially when a section of it has been assigned as homework, may contain important information as well. This means that you may, as a result, want to know some of the ways that you can find the key points in your textbook if you have to take notes on it after, or in some cases, during class.

If you’re having trouble finding the key points in your textbook, there are three different groups of signals that may be able to help.dreamstime_5949134

  • The first are the section descriptors. Section descriptors include captions, chapter titles, headings, subheadings, and any other signals that are used to mark a section. These signals are used to mark important sections or important images, and the information or images that follow these elements will usually identify the main topics and subtopics that you need to describe in your notes. This means that you should record all of the section descriptors because each of these descriptors will usually tell you what the chapter or section is about. In fact, you should not only record the descriptors, but also try to record a very brief summary of each of the paragraphs that follow the descriptors because the information in these paragraphs will usually describe the major concept that the chapter or section covers.
  • The second are the key word signals. Key word signals include bold type, italics, glossaries, end of chapter lists, and other signals that indicate that a word may be important. These signals are used to mark words that you need to know, and the information that appears right before or right after a word that is in bold type or a word that is italicized will typically help you understand what the word means. This means that you may want to record each of these words and the information that immediately precedes or follows each word in your notes.
  • The third are the graphic signals. Graphic signals include charts, diagrams, graphs, maps, tables, time lines, and other graphic representations of important information, and these graphic representations typically contain information that you need to record in your notes.