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Note Taking: Home

Note Taking

Note Taking: some recommendations

First: read the source you have selected to determine its usefulness,

  • Do not take notes at this stage, read for meaning instead. Focus on understanding the material
  • Tips:
    • skim for keywords related to your topic
    • read the introduction and conclusion paragraphs
    • read headings and sub-headings to find relevant information 
    • read the first sentence of each paragraph
  • Decide whether or not the source contains information you think is relevant to your research/argument
  • Read to obtain an understanding of the material

It is tempting to take notes as you are reading the first time, but this is not a particularly efficient technique as you are likely to take down too much information and simply copy without understanding

Second:  review the source and take notes

  • Record details of the source for your reference list or bibliography (see our Guidelines documents on our home page for detailed help with this)
  • Identify the main ideas, as well as important sub-points
  • Dot point the information for easy presentation, highlighting any sections that you might want to use as a quote

Third: determine what you want to use for your research/argument. This might occur later when you use the ideas to construct your argument.


  • Write up the selected information using your words from the dot points
  • Placing the information into your own words forces you to become actively involved with the material
  • Ask yourself, “Do I need to reference the information?”


  • Use as a quote
  • Ask yourself, “Have I used the quote in a constructive manner?”


  • Do not copy information directly from the book or site unless you intend to use it as a quote and then you must clearly identify it as a quote – you might forget that later on
  • Be efficient and not only enough detail to understand

Some useful note taking techniques: