When reading a large document or textbook, instead of reading it front-to-back, read it like an onion.

Layer 1: What is this book about?

  • Read front and back of book
  • Read chapter titles
  • Get a good idea of what the main message is
  • Skim the first paragraphs of chapters if needed
  • Figure out what it is you want to learn

Layer 2: How is the text structured?

  • Start with the chapters that you have the most interest in
  • Skim the first and last paragraphs in the chapter, to figure out what each chapter is about
  • Figure out if you need to know anything in that chapter

Layer 3: Skim chapters for the information you need

  • Scan interesting chapters.
  • Focus on headings and first sentences of paragraphs.
  • Skip anything you know, or isn’t related to what you want to learn.
  • Figure out what you need to know from the text.

Layer 4: Fill in the gaps

  • Re-read Table of Contents
  • Repeat Layer 2/3 as needed to learn what you want

Layer 5: Actual read

  • Typically not necessary.