You’ve been given an assigned reading, and sure you’ve got the list of learning objectives, but still you ask yourself: How do I know what to look for? Chapters of texts are organised to show you what’s important, but there are ways to use the obvious organisers in a text.
Think about the chapter titles. They’re a good key (usually) to what’s contained in that section of the book. If it inspires any questions, write them down and keep them in mind as you read.
Also, pay attention to the introductory sections of each chapter, as they may give overviews of the information to come. Don’t forget to write down any questions or key points you find. Headings and subheadings further split the chapters into more specific chunks of information, and may highlight key ideas.
You can even use chapter titles to create study questions for yourself. For example, if the heading says something like “Eating Meat Is Good For You”, turn it into a question like “Why Is Eating Meat Good For Me?” or “What Makes Eating Meat So Good For Me?” These headings and questions are excellent ways to help develop an essay as well.
When reading the text itself, focus on one section at a time and look for the information that helps answer any questions you’ve noted down. Main ideas are usually stated in the first or last sentences of paragraphs, but this is not a hard and fast rule, so pay attention to the paragraph bodies as well. Also, make note of any bolded terms, and pay attention to any examples given, as they’ll help to make abstract ideas a little more concrete.
As with chapter introductions, don’t forget to pay especial attention to chapter summaries. Read through them to make certain you’ve picked up on the key points of the chapter. If you haven’t, read over anything that was unclear or missed. I’ve also found that re-reading the summaries is a good refresher when studying for exams.