Take Better Notes on Your Readings

No matter what you’re studying, or at what level, you’ll have readings to do for homework and you’ll be expected to master that content to a certain degree. Since I have personal experience as a student and as a teacher, I thought that I would walk you through things you should do while reading so you can take better notes. More specifically, I hope that these things will help you to understand annotating a bit better, as annotating can really help you to understand what the reading is saying. Generally, annotating is when you add notes to your readings. But since there are so many different methods of taking notes, it can be difficult to figure out what to add to your reading if you aren’t used to doing it.

Oh, and I’ll accompany these tips with pictures from my actual homework so you can see what I’m talking about!

Take Better Notes


    • Highlighting: The problem here is making sure that you don’t highlight everything. The way I see it, I highlight the things that I see as worth remembering or going back to. This might be during the class discussion or when I’m writing a paper.

Take Better Notes: Highlight



    • Summarize: Either next to a paragraph or at the top or bottom of the page, I’ll write a word to a sentence explaining what that segment was about. This makes it easy at a glance to find where something about a certain topic is and it also helps me remember the information.

Take Better Notes: Summarize


    • Physically draw connections between elements in the text: I find this especially helpful when I’m trying to avoid highlighting everything. I’ll draw an arrow to indicate what a word or sentence is referring to or what it makes me think about.

Take Better Notes: Draw Connections


    • Define: There are two sides to this. If you come across a word that you don’t know the definition of, you might want to look it up and then write a short explanation next to it. The other side is if the text itself explains what a word or phrase means. In that case, I write the word it’s referring to next to it.

Take Better Notes: Define


    • Label: This differs from summarizing because it is just one word. It makes it easy to find where the author explains settler colonies, for example, if I write “settler” next to it. This is one of the most common notes I include.

Take Better Notes: Label


    • Ask questions: These questions might be things that confuse you so you’ll bring them up in class or they might be just general questions that the text makes you wonder.

Take Better Notes: Ask Questions


    • Make connections between the text and other things: Make a connection between the text and popular culture, something else you read, a current event, any other knowledge you have, whatever.

Take Better Notes: Make Connections


    • Identify important parts: I do this by drawing a star, underlining an also-highlighted sentence, or writing, “This is the point.” This is especially helpful if your teacher or professor asks you, “So, what was the point of this reading?”

Take Better Notes: Identify Important parts


Some other last-minute things to remember: use abbreviations in your notes (I abbreviated Ireland as I. in mine) and don’t be afraid to reread a passage or two. Sometimes you don’t know how important something is until after you’ve already read a page. Don’t be afraid to go back and make a note of it!

Download a free printable to get all of this in a handy one-page sheet!

Any questions about this or other tips for taking notes? I’m more than happy to do another post about how to take notes in class, how to outline articles or chapter, or anything related to that. Just let me know!


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