Using Highlighters to Study More Effectively

Studying is a very complex but fundamental process in learning. To facilitate this tedious task, it's good to use study techniques, such as using highlighters.
Using Highlighters to Study More Effectively

Last update: 31 October, 2020

Knowing how to distinguish and extract important information from a topic or lesson is an indispensable skill for effective studying. To carry out this task, you can use a variety of strategies. For example, we suggesting using highlighters.

This study technique isn’t as simple as it seems. In fact, many students use it incorrectly. For this reason, we’ve prepared the following article in which we’ll explain how to correctly highlight a text.

The importance of underlining for reading comprehension

In order to study and memorize certain information, you must first understand it. Therefore, one of the basic qualities of a good student is to have a high level of reading comprehension.

We can say that comprehensive reading consists of reading slowly, paying a lot of attention, analyzing the meaning of the text, and reflecting on it. Therefore, as you read, you must perform two other actions:

A student highlighting her notes.
  • Ask yourself questions about the text.
  • Apply some selection strategy, such as using highlighters.

“Reading without meditation is a useless occupation”.

– Confucius –

Benefits of using highlighters to study

Using highlighters is very beneficial for studying, since the act of highlighting a text helps to assimilate it better. In addition, it can be very useful to elaborate outlines, concept maps, or summaries more quickly and easily.

To carry out this technique correctly, you need to:

  • Use a certain color to highlight or underline the main ideas of the text. That is, select the relevant information that’s directly related to the central theme.
  • Then, use a different color to highlight the secondary ideas of the text. These ideas refer to complementary information.
  • Finally, in the margin of each paragraph, write a keyword or a short sentence that defines and synthesizes the main ideas that you’ve highlighted.

By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to visually highlight the information you need to study. This is perfect for quickly identifying the most important part of a topic.

However, it’s not uncommon to see books or notes in which students have underlined most of the information. This is absolutely useless and, in fact, counterproductive. It implies wasting time without the exercise of selecting what’s relevant and discarding what’s irrelevant.

Therefore, when applying this study technique, one must bear in mind that it’s not a matter of highlighting the whole text with different colors. Rather, it’s a question of highlighting certain words, portions of lines, or key phrases.

The advantages of using highlighters.

Advantages of using highlighters

As stated by Araceli Sebastián, Belén Ballesteros, and Mari Fé Sánchez García, there are many advantages to using highlighters when studying, such as:

  • Developing the capacity of analysis and observation.
  • Promoting understanding and organization of ideas.
  • Developing the ability to differentiate the main ideas from secondary ideas.
  • Focusing attention and concentration while studying.
  • Facilitating the review and self-evaluation of what you’re studying.
  • Making it possible to re-read the text more quickly.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to teach children and young people to highlight correctly, because it’s a task that doesn’t require much time and brings great benefits.

Thus, if this and other study techniques are instilled from the first years of schooling, students will have better academic performance and will enjoy proving that they know how to study autonomously and effectively.

“It is important to teach how to study on one’s own, to search on one’s own, to be amazed.”

– Mario Bunge –


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Sebastián, A., Ballesteros, B. y Sánchez-García, M.F. (s.f.). Técnicas de estudio. UNED: Centro de Orientación, Información y Empleo (COIE).
  • Serrate, R. (2008). Ayúdale a estudiar. Las claves del éxito escolar. España: Ediciones del Laberinto.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.