I want to take more effective notes

Effective note-taking for essay-writing requires some preparation. First, you should do some pre-reading – look at important parts of the reading (e.g. abstract, introduction, conclusion, section headings, etc) to gain an overview of the article or chapter you need to read. Second, you should have some questions in mind to ask as you go along (What is the author’s purpose/attitude? What specific information are you looking for? etc). These will guide your reading and allow you to take a critical approach.

You should then try to take notes in your own words – paraphrase and summarise. This forces you to process the information you are reading and ensures you have a good understanding of it. It also helps you to avoid inadvertent plagiarism when you come to write your assignment.

You should have a system for structuring and organising your notes – use headings, sub-headings; numbering systems and visual cues such as indenting, underlining, etc. There are various ways of doing this – one is described below.

On your notepad put all bibliographic information at the top of the page, leave margins on the left for organisation (sections, page numbers, etc) and on the right for your comments. This leaves the central section of your page for making the notes themselves. Make sure all quotations are identified as such in your notes.

Develop a system of symbols and abbreviations to make your note-taking less time-consuming.

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