9 September 2006

Previewing a Book

In this exercise I learned that discovering what a book is about does not begin by reading from chapter one. By examining elements of the book outside the chapter content, I can obtain an overview which informs me about the relevance and credibility of the material, helps me identify particular areas of interest or relevance to my study. By previewing a book I can plot my reading, which is particularly important when there is a lot of reading to get through!

Activity 1: Finding out what books are about

Marshall, Lorraine, and Frances Rowland 2006. A Guide to Learning Independently. 4th Edition. Frenchs Forest, Australia: Pearson Education Australia.

This book is a practical guide for students, written by university teachers. Focuses on learning as a personal process. Examines the factors which affect our approach to learning. Contains techniques and exercises to help guide the student take responsibility for steering their own learning. The information is presented interestingly with consistent layout.

From the publication details and information provided about the authors, I learned the book is the latest and very recent edition of an educational text written by educators who have significant experience in the field. From the bibliography and references I learned that materials have been drawn from a wide source and the content is well researched. Therefore the credibility of the book is established.

From the table of contents, the introduction and index I learned what subjects are contained within the book, how the subjects correlate, gained an idea of each subjects depth of scope, and identified several areas of particular interest and relevance to me, which greatly increased my enthusiasm and interest in the book.

The books layout is consistent and structured in a way which aids the reader by presenting material in easily digestible blocks. The presentation style of certain content creates points of interest throughout the book - the use of quoted material in bold, indented type, chapter summaries highlighted with a tinted background, reflective questions presented in italics or bullet points.

The most useful sections of the book for me were the table of contents and the introduction. The table of contents provided the overall scope of the book, with descriptive headings and subheadings. The introductory sections provided the books background and basic premise, which was useful in determining its relevance to me as a student.

Missing from the book is a glossary. This might be considered useful for a book of this type, I can only speculate on why it may not have been included. The main idea in the book seems to be that learning is a self-guided and self-motivated exercise, which aims to encourage students to actively steer the course of their own learning. Therefore the inclusion of a glossary would be outside the scope of what this book aims to achieve. Students would no doubt be encouraged to apply the skills from this book towards furthering their understanding themselves, rather than rely on spoonfed information.

Activity 2: Previewing a book

When to preview, Levels of previewing - reading only

Activity 3: Previewing systematically

Author/s: Lorraine Marshall and Frances Rowland
Title: A Guide to Learning Independently
Subtitle: N/A
Questions that the title and subtitle suggest: As a guide, how factual and relevant is this book. Who are independent learners?

Publication date: 2006
Is this information significant? Why? Yes it is significant in evaluating how relevant and up to date the material is.

List important points that the author presents in the preface, foreword or introduction:

  • Material in the book has been updated

  • The book is directed at the individual student and their approach to learning

Read the table of contents and change the chapter headings into questions. List five of these questions.

  1. What is your background and situation and how does it impact you as a student?

  2. What adjustments must you make to become an independent student?

  3. When and how do we remember what we are learning?

  4. How should you conduct research?

  5. How can you make your reading more effective for study?

If there are appendices in the book, list each one and explain how it might be useful.

One appendix: Discrimination - sexist language and attitudes. Useful in outlining particular expectations of which I need to be aware.
Skim through the book and look at the graphs, pictures, maps or charts; read the captions under them. List three that seem most interesting/useful, and state the reasons for your choices.


Skim through several chapters to discover which study aids have been included. Indicate those that you find on the list below.

  • Chapter outline

  • Headings

  • Chapter summaries

  • Italics

  • Footnotes

  • References

  • Bibliography

  • Questions for study or review

  • Other study aids?

Use the index to survey what you know or don't know about the contents of the book. Read each column to see how many terms, names and places are familiar to you. From the entire index, select ten items that are familiar to you and ten items that you know little about. If you cannot find ten items that are unfamiliar, you probably have a basic knowledge of the subject.

  1. ...

  2. ...

  3. ...

  4. ...

  5. ...

  6. ...

  7. ...

  8. ...

  9. ...

  10. ...

List some authors and titles of books from the bibliography or references that you would like to read or that might challenge you to expand your knowledge of the subject.

Activity 4: Reflection of the process

In your learning log, discuss any changes you need to make to preview books more effectively.

No comments: