How to Take Notes While Reading

How to Take Notes on a Book

The art of taking good notes on a book can be learned. However, it takes practice and patience to perfect the craft. If you want to know how to take good notes in college, this post will teach you the most things you need to know.

You’ll learn how to get started with reading your books for class, what types of things are essential when taking notes, note-taking techniques that work well for different subjects/types of writing assignments, etc. You will be able to learn how to take good notes in college very quickly!

What is Note Taking?

Note-taking is a skill that lets you better comprehend and synthesize information so you can recall it at a later time. In some cases, this may involve taking notes during lectures or other presentations and copying key points or main points from books or other reading material.

Learning how to take notes on any reading material is an essential part of being a student. You have assignments and tasks that need to be completed for each class all day, five days a week (or more!).

And if the note-taking pursuit stretches into your semester breaks too – we’re talking about four months of heavy reading – then there’s even more reason to spend time learning how to take good notes on books best.

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Taking Notes on Books for College

There are several different ways that students process information in college. One of the most common is by using outside sources to write research papers or essays for assignments. What this means is that you’ll need to be proficient in how you take notes on books.

There are different note-taking techniques that students can use. Two specific methods work well for these types of assignments.

We’ll first describe the different ways you should be taking notes on your books for any class assignment before moving on to some basic guidelines to remember when working with textbooks and other academic reading materials.

Methods for Taking Notes

There are two methods of note-taking that every student should know about when writing up class assignments.

1) The Cornell Note

Walter Pauk developed the Cornell note method at Cornell University. Using this method, students create a block of information on a page and then subdivide it into “headings,” “pictures,” and writing sections.

2) The SQ3R

It stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

The two note-taking techniques work as follows:

1) Read – The first step is to read the section of text you’ve been assigned and identify important information. To do this, you’ll want to underline, highlight, and annotate what you’re reading.

2) Reflect – Once you’ve finished the section, take a few minutes to think about what you just read. Ask yourself, “What is this section all about?” and “How are the parts related?” This should help organize your thoughts so that they can later be organized onto paper.

3) Recite – Now it’s time to take out your notes and say what you’ve read aloud. This helps because when we speak, we tend to be slower than when we write.

Therefore, you’ll catch yourself saying certain things more slowly, allowing for a better understanding of the material. You can also ask others to listen to your recitation so they can help point out any errors or missed points.

4) Review – Take a few minutes to review what you’ve recited and look for any holes in your understanding of the subject matter. If there are any, then it might be worth going back and re-reading that section before moving on in your text. This is a great time to ask someone else about anything you don’t understand and ask for their help in any areas where you might be having difficulties.

Use Your Handwriting

Writing by hand is very different than typing. It forces you to slow down and think about what you’re writing – something that we don’t do when we type. This makes handwritten notes much easier to understand and remember than typed notes, so always do your best to take handwritten notes.

Take Notes in the Margins

Typically when we take notes during class or while reading a book, all of our information is written directly into the margins. This can be a problem because it will force you to ignore other important details while going through your assignment – something that can be avoided if you use the margins for note-taking.

Find a copy of your book that’s not highlighted or annotated. Write your notes in the margins of those pages. This way, all of your most important information will be on one page – leaving room for anything else you might come across as you read.

Use a Bookmark or Place Marker

It’s challenging to keep your place when you’re taking notes on a book, especially if it’s a school book and there are no page numbers in the text’s margins.

Use a Post-It note or piece of tape to stick on the side so you can easily find your place again after taking some time to think about what you’re reading.

As for books that don’t have page numbers, there are software programs out there that will allow you to generate them – making it much easier to keep up with where you are in the text.

If you have no choice but to take notes on paper, you can also use sticky notes or bookmarks. Write down where your place is so that you won’t have to spend time looking for it later.

Basic Guidelines to Take Notes on a Book

When you’re taking notes on a book in your college course, there are some basic guidelines to follow so that you get the best idea of the content at hand. These apply whether you’re using one of these specific note-taking methods or just taking notes by hand.

Work on understanding the book or novel, not just trying to copy down what’s being said. If you’re engaged in how the author explains things, you’ll have a much easier time keeping up with what they are saying and processing that information into your own words and sentences.

Work on summarizing the book or novel, not just copying it down word-for-word. One of the main reasons we read books is to learn new information. That means we’re going to need someplace to put it! Recalling the ideas from a book or article can be difficult at first. Putting them into your own words – and placing those ideas in a structure – can help you recall information for more extended periods.

Be specific about the book’s content. Use page numbers, chapter titles, or author names to help organize what you’re learning. If you have a lot going on from assignment to assignment during the day, then it’s relatively easy to forget the contents of a book.

Even if you have good recall skills, pointing out these details can help you get an idea of how the author wants to present the book.

Don’t just summarize what you’re reading. Take some time to reflect on it too. There’s a lot of pressure to get your papers and assignments finished quickly these days. It’ll be worth the extra effort if you stop and think about what you’re reading.

It can help to get some initial thoughts out on paper before doing anything else with them. It’s also something that will look good when you hand in your assignment.

Using these guidelines can be a great help when taking notes on books and novels. It’s even better to have some practice with them so that you’re ready for what lies ahead.

What is Taking Notes While Reading Called?

Taking notes while you’re reading is called “annotating.” This means that you’re writing in the margins of your paper while you’re reading. It can be challenging to keep track of everything while you’re annotating.

Get a copy of your text that’s not already marked up and re-read what you’ve already highlighted. That way, it’ll be easier for you to catch anything that might have been missed on the first read-through.

What Are the Five R’s of Taking Notes?

The Five R’s to take notes are;

1. Read the Text – This is the most crucial part, and we recommend reading aloud or using a recording to make sure you understand the text and get it down in your own words.

2. Review – Once you feel like you’ve finished reading, take a break from studying and then review what you just learned for 10 minutes.

3. Recite – After the break, recite what you just learned from memory while looking at your notes or on a clean sheet of paper. If there are any significant gaps in your understanding, go back and find where you left off so that you can fill in those gaps with more information.

4. Revise – This is when you want to go back and make changes to your notes. If you forgot something, add it in. If there are any confusing parts, rephrase them in a way that makes more sense or ask questions to clarify what you don’t understand.

5. Recall – Now the test begins! Put away all your materials and try to answer each question independently, without referring to anything. This will help you retain the information better than if you had read straight through and taken notes simultaneously.

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What Are the Types of Taking Notes?

You may use three types to take notes while reading; Outlining, Marginal, and Direct.


This is when you write down everything that comes to mind while reading. All of your thoughts must be on paper, even if they don’t seem important or necessary.

You might have a lot of “useless” information on the page, but there could come a time when you need it later. It’s best to get it all down rather than having to go back and find it.

Outlining can be difficult because you have to keep track of so many different things at once. Your main focus should be on creating an overview that ties everything together.

Never forget the details that are supporting that big picture. The overview is what will come in handy in the future. It’s where you should focus most of your time and attention.


Write down anything you think is necessary but not important enough to take up a whole line. If it’s good enough for a paragraph, then it should be written in the margins.

Marginal note-taking is much more common than outlining. It involves taking notes while reading instead of writing them all down beforehand.

This means that instead of looking through your notes and trying to find the information you need, flip back a page or two. You’ll see what you’re looking for without spending too much time going over everything.


This is just straight-up writing down what you’re reading. There’s no summarizing or organizing the material. There’s less work involved with this method of note-taking.

On the downside, it doesn’t allow you to process information as quickly as marginal or outlining does. This means that your notes will be more disorganized and harder to understand.

What Are the Other Ways You Can Employ to Take Notes?

The other ways to take notes while reading include Outline, Web, Blocking, and Modular.

Web Note-Taking – This method works like a spider web. All of your ideas branch out from the main concept and come back together to create a big picture.

If you’re taking notes in a Web format, it’s essential to keep the bigger picture in mind at all times. You don’t want any of your ideas to be too specific, or they’ll lose their connections with the main point that is trying to be made.

For example:

  • You can assign numbers to the branches of your web. 1, 2, 3, etc.

This method works very well for summarizing information in a short amount of time. It’s also good for exploring ideas and looking at things from many different angles. When you’re taking notes in this format, try to avoid getting too detailed with the branches.

You can also have multiple webs in one paper, with each having its main idea. This method is best suited for exploring many different ideas and referencing back to them quickly when needed.

Blocking involves taking up two pages for one topic. On one page, you’ll write the main idea and details that support it. On the other, you’ll come up with another way to say the same thing differently.

For example:

  • The racehorse War of Will ran a great race. He stayed in the lead for most of the time and won by more than one length.
  • War of Will stayed ahead of his competitors, crossing the finish line over one length between him and the nearest runner. This gives credence to his name because “Will” means “strength” in German.

The blocking method of note-taking helps you see the same thing from different angles, which can help to enhance understanding. It also makes it easier to write papers because you don’t have to find so many sources – take notes on one idea and use different methods for saying what you’re trying to say.

Modular method– This method lets the writer create a central framework for their notes. The framework is made up of different modules that can be added or eliminated as needed. Modular note-taking allows you to expand on your ideas as much as needed.

Everything is always available and easy to access. This makes it easier to write papers and synthesize information from many different sources. The only downside to this technique is that it can take a long time because everything must be connected and organized.


Note-taking is an essential skill that can help students throughout their lives, no matter how old they are. We’ve discussed several methods you can take notes while reading. Feel free to choose one that you prefer. Use it to jot down anything that you think is helpful, necessary, or interesting. We suggest that you use Web or Blocking, but it’s up to you. No matter what method you choose, your notes should be something that will come in handy when studying for a test or writing a paper.

We hope this will help make your life easier when you take notes! Thank you for reading!

Lastly, remember that you can get help with coursework, which will enable you to focus on other important things, and if you realize that you have an assignment at the last minute, you can get help from our last minute essay writing service!

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