Deface your books. Have fun writing in them. Indulge yourself as you never could with your grade school books. The purpose of making marks in a text is to call out important concepts or information that you will need to review later. Be aware, though, that underlining a text with a pen can make underlined sections—the important parts—harder to read. As an alternative, many students underline in pencil or use colored highlighters to flag key words and sentences. Using a highlighter to mark key information can save lots of time when you are studying for tests.
Underlining offers a secondary benefit. When you read with a highlighter, pen, or pencil in your hand, you involve your kinesthetic senses of touch and motion. Being physical with your books can help build strong neural pathways in your memory.
Five smart ways to highlight a text
Step 5 in Muscle Reading presents a powerful tool: highlighting. It also presents a danger—the ever-present temptation to highlight too much text. Excessive highlighting leads to wasted time during reviews and can also spoil the appearance of your books. Get the most out of all that money you pay for books. Highlight in an efficient way that leaves texts readable for years to come.
Read carefully firstRead an entire chapter or section at least once before you begin highlighting. Don’t be in a hurry to mark up your book. Get to know the text first. Make two or three passes through difficult sections before you highlight.
Make choices up front about what to highlightPerhaps you can accomplish your purposes by highlighting only certain chapters or sections of a text. When you highlight, remember to look for passages that directly answer the questions you posed during Step 3 of Muscle Reading. Within these passages, highlight individual words, phrases, or sentences rather than whole paragraphs. The important thing is to choose an overall strategy before you put highlighter to paper.