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To me it sounds like the book you're reading is of the second kind a dump of facts. Such a textbook is better treated as a reference book, like a dictionary. No one reads a dictionary unless they're trying to pass the GRE or win a spelling bee : , but they will refer to it to get the meanings of words. Similarly, with a book that describes 35 problem solving methods, maybe reading it cover to cover isn't the best strategy. Rather, you should focus on a few techniques or even one and try to understand that well. Then put the book away and revisit it from time to time.
A textbook can be a collection of facts, but often it's more than that: it's a path through the facts that provides a structure with which to process the facts. The goal of reading and learning is to acquire both the facts AND the structure. The facts will be easier to remember if you have the structure in place, and the structure makes more sense with the facts as examples.
There are many many different types of textbooks, and they have very different goals. Off the top of my head, I can list the following three main kinds:. Coursework book , used as reference material for learning a rather broad topic. You expect it to bring a general introduction of the techniques in one field, broad overview, enough to understand the challenges in the field, identify the most common solutions and be able to work them on your own.
This will surely include many problem sets, with or without solutions. They can be very different in scope, content and style of presentation. They exist to give a summary of the extent of knowledge on a given topic. They are written for experts and wannabe-experts, so more attention is usually given to correctness than than pedagogy.
Such work is useful not only because of the text itself, but also because it usually offers a large number of references to seminal and important papers in the field, which offer you a good way to get started.
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Reference book. This is not something you're supposed to read from A to Z, but rather open when you have need. In the first two cases, if the textbook includes problem sets or exercises , you should do them. For real , without looking at the answers until you're finished.
If you're stuck, give it some time, then come back. Don't give up. This is where you'll learn the most. Reading a textbook is reading for academical purposes.
In many ways this is very different from reading for leisure. Unfortunately, they don't teach you that in your first days at university, thus many students still try to read ALL books on a reading list from A to Z - and fail. When you read a book and then forget all the content, what remains is Intelligence. Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the person who wrote this;- Do not worry about forgetting details, something will settle in your mind. Besides, reading a book whatever it is is an exercise for your brain and makes you smarter over the time.
But I agree with others, most of the time it is not wise to read a text book from cover to cover.
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To paraphrase what I was often told at university: a good higher education won't teach you everything you need to know, but it will teach you how best to find it. Even a passing familiarity with the literature on any given topic is a good start down that path.
When I read a textbook, I read through an entire chapter quickly, just getting an overview of what will be shown and then go back through the chapter section by section, doing exercises if the book has them and trying out each idea to make sure it fits in with what I already know. I try to link it to something I already understand well, so that the knowledge "sticks". Drawings at this stage nearly always help me. Especially if they're strange links; My mind seems to be better at remembering very odd things. Once I'm done with a chapter, I revisit it about 20 minutes later, then an hour later, then a day, a week, and a month later.
Once the month repetition is done, I tend to find that I can remember everything in that chapter. Perhaps a little long winded, especially the repetition, but it has been said that repetition is the mother of learning. Scott H Young has some excellent resources on how to study textbooks. He seems to be very, very good at learning. His free chapter of "Learn more, study less" has some excellent tips in.
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This is the wrong way around. To understand you need to have the relevant, important facts at hand. So "knowing facts" comes before is a lesser ability than "understanding". Also, "understanding" includes weeding out the irrelevant facts. The Stack Overflow podcast is back! Listen to an interview with our new CEO. Sign up to join this community. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top.
Home Questions Tags Users Unanswered. How to read a textbook for distance learning coursework - do I need to work on fact recall, or is understanding enough?
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James James 3 3 silver badges 10 10 bronze badges. Perhaps a better question might be not What is the purpose of reading a textbook? Also updated the question for context. See my answer to a similar question. Related: academia. I'm surprised that no one's suggested that you ask the course organizers on how this material might show up in an exam. Kaz Kaz 4 4 silver badges 8 8 bronze badges. Your answer seems closest to what I'm trying to appreciate.
Having read the material in my book, I can recognise some instances with characteristics that might benefit from the application of a particular technique or at least a family of techniques, but I won't be able to remember the name or describe it usefully. It might helpful to change the question slightly, into What is the purpose of writing a textbook? So to answer your question: A textbook can be a collection of facts, but often it's more than that: it's a path through the facts that provides a structure with which to process the facts.
Suresh Suresh Even if you understand it, is it still the case that you need to be able to remember the structure without being prompted? The structure of the book itself relates to the structure of the material hopefully , but I'm really talking about the structure of the material.