There are many options for marking text and taking notes while reading. Choices you make will depend on your background with a subject, your learning style, your purpose, and your time.

Traditional Methods

Mark Directly on the Text:

  • Underline, circle, or highlight key words and phrases.
  • Annotate margins with symbols, abbreviations, or summaries.

Use a Separate Document or Medium:

  • Write or type important points or passages.
  • Generate bulleted lists.
  • Create structured outlines with numerals and letters. Summarize sections in your own words.

Cornell Style: Take notes on the right two-thirds of the page. List key words in the left column. Summarize the entire page in the space at the bottom.

Make Flashcards: Transfer information to index cards or electronic flashcards for easy drilling.

Non-Traditional Methods

Create a Graphic Organizer:

  • Organize information visually.
  • Differentiate main ideas from support in an appropriate format: concept map, table, flow chart, hierarchy, timeline, or Venn diagram.

Dictate: Record important points or passages as audio files.

Generate Your Own Q&A: Formulate questions from headings and key words before you begin. Then seek answers as you read.


Here are few tips to follow:

  • Preview the assignment before you begin.
  • Finish reading each section or page before marking on it and taking notes.
  • Include your own thoughts, opinions, and questions.
  • Be selective. Don’t transcribe large sections of text. Use highlighters sparingly.
  • Stop frequently. Use the ends of sections as cues to summarize.
  • Seek connections. Look for contrast and overlap with other materials.
  • Talkwith your professor about the role of the assignment.

Download PDF: Taking Notes While Reading

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