Highlighting can be an effective study tool — if done strategically! This handout offers a few tips on using highlighters.
- Only highlight after you’ve reached the end of a paragraph or a section. This will help you pinpoint key concepts.
- Limit yourself to highlighting one sentence or phrase per paragraph
- It’s okay and even preferable to highlight key words and phrases instead of full sentences.
- Consider color-coding: choose one color for definitions and key points and another color for examples.
- Using your own words, write summaries of key concepts in the margins (in pen or pencil).
|Highlighting Pros||Highlighting Cons|
|Helps isolate important facts||Over-highlighting text sharply reduces any benefits|
|Can keep you actively engaged while reading, if you highlight selectively||Little evidence that highlighting benefits long-term retention|
|Beneficial if you already have good comprehension of material||Doesn’t lead to making inferences or connections between ideas|
|Beneficial only if you do the highlighting yourself. Little to no benefit if you read text highlighted by someone else.||Prevents you from using more effective learning strategies, such as Practice Testing and Distributed Practice.|
Download PDF: Highlighting: The User’s Guide
REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you create a balanced approach to succeeding at Carolina. Our friendly staff is ready to help – drop by or make an appointment!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.