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How To Take College Reading Notes

Note-Taking While Reading In 3 Steps:

As Simple As 1-2-3


College and university years are full of note-taking. There is no way around it, and so many note-taking styles exist. Not only are there various note-taking techniques available, but it also makes a difference where you are when you're taking notes: during a class lecture, while reading a book or article, or listening to or watching a recording. The trick to effective note-taking is finding the best techniques for you. Take notes in three steps while reading an informational text, no matter what note-taking style you choose.


Step One: Highlight

Identify the keywords that you want to highlight. Whether using a highlighter or underlining with your pencil or pen, only essential words need to stand out. Be sure to choose the most important words to understand the topic. Essential words will only stand out if you highlight only a few words in a sentence or paragraph. When you go back to review the chapter or article, it's vital that the words that bring meaning, understanding, and mastery of the subject are visible quickly and clearly.

Tip: Often, the genre or type of article can help determine the best words, phrases, or information to highlight.

Take notes in three steps to remember while reading, no matter what note-taking style you decide to use.


Step Two: Annotate

Note-taking while reading requires interacting with the information and words instead of a cold read. The act of annotation means to make a note. Paraphrase the highlighted information in your own words. Write the main idea of essential paragraphs in your own words. Once you've highlighted the vital words and phrases, follow up with an annotation that briefly and concisely explains the importance of the highlighted section(s). Marginal annotations should be five words or less.


Step Three: Summarize

Combine the annotations to summarize the article or chapter. Culminating a reading session with a summary provides study notes and helps you retain the information and understand your own. If it takes more than one reading session to read the article or chapter, continue to add to the summary from your annotations of the day.


Last, you can combine the summary, followed by the highlighted words and phrases in outlined or bulleted notes. You can study these notes without going back into the text or article.

Tip: When taking notes while reading in three steps, jot down any questions. If you find the answer later as you read, cross out that question. If you still have questions, be sure to ask these in the next class or discussion board.)


Grab a note-taking infographic to keep nearby as you read your next text or article.

Interested in academic coaching in note-taking or other college strategies?


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