Should I be taking notes from my reading?
It is not always essential, however taking notes from your reading can help you in a number of situations. First, making notes can help you understand and analyse what you read. It often helps you to relate what you are reading to your purpose for reading - for example, to find sources for your specific essay topic.
Second, notes can provide a good starting point for your written assignment. As well as being convenient, (since your notes are easier to carry around than the original books or articles), you can also use your notes to help you avoid plagiarism in your assignment, by writing the ideas into your own words from the beginning. (Of course, you need to keep track of the source of your notes, by writing the reference information of each source alongside.)
There are a few different forms of notes which may be useful for you. Concept maps or visual notes are can be helpful for thinking about the relationships between ideas, or capturing the 'big picture' at an early stage in planning your assignment. Margin notes or highlighting a copy of the text is a quick way to make notes while you read, and may help you find the important points later, if you plan to read the source again - e.g. to study for an exam. However, this form of note taking keeps to the order and structure of the original source, instead of an order or structure which could help your specific assignment question (or any other purpose you have for reading). For this reason, it's a good idea to take your highlighting or margin notes and use them to make notes in a separate document - e.g. bullet points, diagrams or tables.