Document 225415

How to Read a
It is important to remember that a science textbook:
1. Cannot necessarily be read in the same way that a novel can be, and
2. Needs to be read through a process of active (not passive) engagement
Before Class:
Before new material is presented in class, the first step is to skim through the chapter or section to be
covered beforehand
• Read the introduction of the chapter/section (if it has one)
• Pay attention to anything in bolded or highlighted lettering, including: sub/section headings,
definitions, etc.
• Look at diagrams, graphs, pictures and formulas
• Read the chapter or section summary (if it has one) and become familiar with the main topics and
• This process should break down the material into smaller, more manageable pieces
Now, go back to the beginning of the chapter and read it in full
• Don’t worry about understanding the material the first time you read through it. You most likely
won’t, and that’s OK!
• Read it fairly quickly. It is not important to thoroughly grasp the material at this point, as that will
come in lecture. You just want to focus on reading it before it is discussed in class.
• Even if you don’t understand the material when you read it, that’s OK. When you go to lecture,
you’ll find yourself understanding the material in a way that you never would have if you hadn’t
already read the material before coming to class.
After Class:
A day or two after class, carefully reread the material in the textbook. You should be able to
understand things much better now than when you initially read it.
Make note of anything that you still don’t understand, and make sure to ask your Professor or TA
about it (or, if applicable, another student or tutor)
Important Tips:
Master the First Four Chapters of the Textbook
∗ When learning physics, the majority of the information rests upon the concepts
developed in the beginning chapters of the textbook
Peer Mentor Program
Queen’s University
Such concepts are: Kinematics, Dynamics, Vector Analysis, Momentum, Work,
and Energy
Learn these concepts – do not just memorize them! Your success in physics will
depend upon your knowledge of this early material
Improve Note Taking Skills
∗ In regards to note taking, it really isn’t about the
quantity, but rather, the quality of your notes
∗ Professor covering something they have
previously covered? Perhaps it’s best to
listen, and just take notes on what is
new or different
∗ If the material the Professor is
teaching parallels that of the
textbook, it might be beneficial to
listen to the Professor while they
lecture and then take notes out of
the textbook
∗ There are many useful strategies on how
to take effective notes: make sure to look
through other Learning Strategies and Peer Mentoring resources that will help
guide you in taking better notes
Learn the Art of Solving Physics Problems
∗ Solving physics problems is, literally, an art! It needs to be learned
∗ Firstly, read the entire problem through carefully, and multiple times
∗ Try to understand what physics principles might be involved
∗ After letting it sink in, write down what quantities are known/given, and then
what you want to find
∗ You might find it useful to draw a picture of the situation, and then label the
drawing with your known and unknown values
∗ Remember that a physics problem relies on the ability to reason, rather than
knowing a list of formulas
o What principles/definitions/equations relate to the quantities
o If a problem has many known quantities and an unknown,
solve for the unknown algebraically
o Problem not as simple as that? Make a list of what you can
find with the information that you have.
o Still can’t answer the question? Ask yourself how you can
look at the problem differently? How can you use the concepts
you’ve been learning to solve this problem?
∗ When you solve the problem, look at your answer and determine if it is
reasonable and if it makes sense in regards to your own intuition and experience.
∗ Last, but not least, make sure you keep track of the units on each side of the
equation, as they must be equal. If they don’t balance, a mistake has been made.
This is a good way to check your answer!
Peer Mentor Program
Queen’s University