Textbooks are a crucial part of the college experience. The majority of students spend thousands of dollars on textbooks per year, and the average student has over $1,000 in unread textbooks sitting at home. If you find yourself in this position, here are some simple tips for how to summarize a textbook chapter efficiently so that you can make the most out of your investment.

Read the Introduction

The introduction will usually give you a good overview of what the content of the chapter is about and how it is organized. In addition, the introduction will often contain helpful information that can improve your understanding of the book as a whole. For example, it may define unfamiliar terms and let you know where the content fits relative to what has already been covered before and what to expect in future chapters. You will also get a sense of the author’s style or approach.

Skim the Chapter

Textbooks are loaded with lots of information. If you are taking many classes you will probably have several chapters to read each week. You may not have the time to read every single word. Check with your syllabus or with your professor to find out what is most important to focus on. Your professor may provide you with a list of learning objectives for the content to be covered. Use the keywords in the list to find the important areas as you quickly skim through the pages. This should take you 3 to 5 minutes or less. If the textbook is user-friendly, the chapter will be divided into major and minor subheadings making this process easy.

Read the Sections that are Important

Once you have identified the sections that are important to review, buckle down and read! You can’t summarize what you have not read. Get away from all distractions and focus your attention. Do not plan to check your emails or multitask during this time. Don’t skim. Read slowly, taking the time to look up unfamiliar terms or research unfamiliar concepts. After completing each section, take a few minutes to reflect and write down in bullet points, the key ideas and supporting details such as theories, definitions, dates, process flows, equations, etc.

Organize the Key Ideas

Now take time to look over the bullet points you made. The outline that you have created will be a good scaffold on which to build your summary. As you carefully look over your notes, you may notice that some ideas overlap or are repeated. Plan to consolidate those into single ideas.

Add Details – In Your Own Words

Add flesh to your bullet points, explaining each one in more detail and in your own words. Never copy verbatim from the textbook. You will gain a better understanding and retention of the material. You know you have a good understanding of the material when you are able to weave common threads between key concepts and can explain the material simply in a conversation.

Monetize Your Notes

Students tend to create summary notes for their own use as a study guide. Therefore they may not worry too much about grammar and mechanical errors in the text. In today’s world where you can easily upload and sell your document, it is important to make it as high-quality as possible. Take the time to proofread and correct any errors in the document. The next step is to upload it online and start selling. Start by uploading to Food Science Toolbox. Happy earning!

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Courtney Simons
Courtney Simons
Dr. Simons is a food science educator. He earned his bachelor’s degree in food science, and Ph.D. in cereal science at North Dakota State University.