Kiosk Guides for Learning

A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: (s)he is also a child placed before natural
phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.
Marie Curie
1867 - 1934
French scientist/researcher

Techniques in studying science and math menu

Reading textbook chapters and scientific papers

First, get a perspective on what you must read/study

  • Review the assignment in the syllabus and any handouts (1-2 minutes)
    Maybe you are not required to read some sections.
  • Survey the chapter (5-10 minutes)
    for how the content is organized; get the "big picture"

    This is not to fully understand; rather develop preliminary associations of bits of information that later will help you understand.
    Quickly scan the introduction, the summary, vocabulary list, self-test questions, headings, boldfaced material, major graphics, etc.
    Notice the major concepts, definitions, descriptions, causes and effects, and arguments.
  • Check out the media, the CD and website (if available)
    to see what they contain
  • Take no notes, and mark no text in this phase

Reading and understanding scientific papers and chapters

Reading scientific papers and chapters can be challenging, but if you follow a routine and practice it as an active reader, each task will become easier to master.

The difficulty lies in the nature of science

  • Evidence is gathered from observation and experiment.
  • It uses a systematic approach to gather and organize evidence
  • Hypotheses are tested that respond to questions for problem solving.
  • The process is self-correcting.
    It is systematized and unbiased
    Open to consider its results whether or not its conclusions agree with the original hypotheses.
    The results can lead to new questions, cyclical.
  • Studying science has as its foundation the scientific method.


  • Before taking a course, list out any introductory courses and/or prerequisites.
  • Prepare yourself by reading the syllabus carefully for assignments, timeline, grading

Assigned readings.

  • Understand the purpose of any reading assignment:
    pay attention to the instructions on approaching it, and due dates.
    Make sure you understand what is being asked of you.
  • Create a plan.
    Decide how much time you will need to complete the assignment;
    where you will study, and what else you may need to engage with the reading material
    (CD, Website, reference books, tutors, etc.)


Survey the paper or chapter
Take five to ten minutes to preview the introduction, summary, headings, graphics and images, boldfaced material, conclusions/questions at the end. Make no notes at this point: you are orienting yourself to the task with the “big picture”, but also give yourself an idea of how to divide the reading into manageable sections/stages.

First reading.

Strive for a basic understanding of the new material

With each unit, scan its heading and subheadings before you start reading.
This will give you a general overview of the material and help you to focus on the most important information.

Read with pauses in natural "units"
Read and pause, read and pause.
Progress through each section as you are comfortable
Let your mind assemble the parts for the whole unit.

Do not take notes during your first reading.
In the margin create a simple code for what will need special attention:
i.e.: V for vocabulary, F for particular facts, A for argument etc. and "?" for what seems challenging.

Second Reading

Work to understand the facts and principles, look to recognize patterns and build associations.
Memorize by priority after you feel corfortable.

  1. Give complete attention to the reading task: read actively!
  2. Break your reading into units—usually constructed within the chapter
    Do not overwhelm yourself with a large amount of new information.
  3. Monitor that you understand each in succession
    Pay attention to images and graphics and any leading questions
  4. Use different types of notes: outline, bullet points, drawings, even recorded audio
    The type of notes you take can be as diverse as you are
  5. Isolate new concepts, vocabulary on note cards to review and test yourself
  6. Build a concept map of the new information
    Work to associate new information with what you already know.
  7. Complete any exercises in the (instructor’s) reading assignment
  8. At the end of the chapter review its summary and/or questions
  9. At this point, if you have open questions or material you don’t understand
  • Identify key words and concepts
    (Use apps such as Bard, ChatGPT or Google Chat to help you understand them)
  • Search books and/or the Internet for alternative explanations
  • Bring open questions to a classmate, study group, tutor
  • Discuss with your instructor.


  • Review your notes; look for gaps.
    Reviewing solidifies understanding and recall/memorization.
  • For your self-tests ask yourself verbal questions and give verbal answers.
    A verbal recollection is another method of understanding
  • Construct a concept map of the main ideas;
    illustrate them with your own examples.
  • Use look-away techniques to review.
    Look at information, look away, ask a question, give an answer, look back and check what the real answer is, correct yorself and try again.
  • Use cumulative-addition-to-a-set.
    Study one item. Study a second, then study both until perfect. Study a third, then study all three until perfect. And so on—up to fifteen or twenty items. Then start a new set.
  • Study lists and sets by using mnemonic methods.
  • Use the fundamental units, theories, and scientific reasoning as the basis for making up questions to test yourself.
Edited from a contribution by Daniel Hodges
Science series

Studying science | Following the scientific method | Studying text books in science |
Writing lab reports and scientific papers | How to write a research proposal |
Writing white papers | Lab safety

Digested in part from a contribution by Daniel Hodges