Reading an academic book
Scanning a book
When scanning a book there are different steps to be taken depending on your purposes i.e. looking for table, chart or diagram, or looking for an answer to a question. If you don't have physical access to the book, try searching for it on the Internet using Google Books or Amazon. These websites may sometimes have a scan copy of the table of contents or may have link to reviews that do.
- Check the book's table of contents, table of figures, etc. Some books will contain separate tables for charts, images, information, etc.
- Read the chapter headings in the table of contents. If you find the keyword or concept here, go to the chapter, read the chapter introduction and the first couple of paragraphs. If it appears that the keyword or concept is covered, continue reading. If you are not sure after reading these parts, check to see if there is a chapter summary or read the last two paragraphs. If the keyword or concept you're looking for is not in the table of contents, go to the next step.
- Search the index for topics or keywords. If you find the keyword or concept in the index, go to the appropriate page or pages in the book. Scan the page/s for the concept and then read the paragraphs above and below the one containing the keyword or concept.
Skimming a book
Previewing, or skimming, a book is accomplished by
- Checking a title and author.
- Reading the preface and dust cover report on the author.
- Checking the content. Look at the index and examine chapter titles. Look for a summary.
- Thumbing through the book, stopping occasionally to skim paragraphs.
Pay close attention to the way the paragraphs are put together and notice their length. Long paragraphs may be elaborating on a key thought, and short paragraphs may expect the reader to link separate ideas together. Thoroughly reading a paragraph or two will provide clues as to how the author puts their thoughts together. Are they analytical and methodical, or do they ramble and reiterate? Are they accurate and thorough, or is their writing superficial or vague? At this point make preliminary judgements about the author's purpose. Are they writing to inform, to prove a point, to share an experience, to describe a procedure, or something else?
Reading a book in depth
Once you have good overview of the book you should then read it in depth and take careful notes, including the full reference information.