There are many different ways to study the Bible, but my favorite way (and one of the most popular methods) is the Inductive method: Prepare, Observe, Interpret, Apply, Transform.
STEP ONE: PREPARE
-- Always pray before Bible study, whether for personal devotions or studying for a sermon or lesson. You never know what God wants to teach you through time in his Word.
-- Gather supplies; I use my Bible, a notebook, and a few pens (to mark key words/phrases). Sometimes I use a study book or commentary. I also have a few other tools handy like a Bible Dictionary, a Concordance, and Biblical Language Tools (for translating Hebrew and Greek).
STEP TWO: OBSERVE
--Familiarize yourself with the text. For short books or epistles, try reading through the whole book to get a feel for the author's intent. In larger books, read through the chapter or even a few chapters at a time. Note any context clues (time frame, location) and major characters or events. Use the "5 W's and an H": who, what, where, when, why, and how.
--Create an overview of the book (in your mind or on paper). Use obvious characters, events, and key words to label the book (or section/chapter) with a theme or main point. Sometimes it helps to pick a key verse.
--Work through the book/section chapter-by-chapter. For each chapter, identify details about your main characters and events, as well as what you learn about the key terms. Look for literary features, such as figures of speech, comparisons, contrasts, and conclusion terms.
STEP THREE: INTERPRET
--Study the key words in the original language, use a Bible Dictionary or concordance to find parallel passages or terms, and read a commentary or lesson on the passage to gather further insight.
--Try outlining the passage to separate the main clauses.
--Find a timeless truth/message from the passage.
STEP FOUR: APPLY
--Think about your life and how that timeless lesson applies. This might mean a change in thought or action.
--Consider how this truth should affect family, friends, and your church. Consider the global impact.
STEP FIVE: TRANSFORM
All the above steps will help to fill out a Study time or prepare a well-written lesson, but without transformation, it is all for naught. Our study time should reveal the truth of Scripture, and when applied, will transform us to be more like Christ.
**I personally use several of Kay Arthur's methods and tools in my personal study.