Reading and Notemaking

Return to Strategies, Tools and Handouts


Our “Reading and Note-making” materials are thorough and will help you improve your reading skills, prioritize your readings, and choose an effective note-making and review strategy to help you remember what you read.

Looking for something short? Read our Quick Tips to improve your reading skills.

Are you a graduate student? Check out the Critical Reading Module for Graduate Students.

In this section:

  • Quick Tips
  • Module: Reading and Note-making for Undergraduate Students
  • Module: Critical Reading for Graduate Students
  • Strategies and Tools



1. Set yourself up for reading: quiet place, turn off your technology, good lighting, a block of time. Lying on your soft, warm bed may lead to sleep- – not attentive reading.

2. Determine your reason for reading:

  • in textbooks, it may be for clarification of material in the lecture
  • in scientific journals, it may be procedural details and results
  • in case studies, it may be to identify common themes and subsequent outcomes
  • in literature, it may be to track particular language patterns

3. Preview material to get a “big picture’ perspective.

4. Analyze the structure of a textbook for clues regarding main topics/subtopics/details/definitions/examples. The “Preface” may give important information about HOW to read and use the text.

5. Think of questions as you read, to stay awake and be more mentally involved.

6. Reflect on material when you finish a section: use your own words to summarize the main ideas.

7. Make notes at the end of a section, or go back and highlight only the key ideas.

8. Become aware of how long it takes to attentively read different kinds of material, and set realistic targets about how much you can read in a set amount of time. Every course or source may be different.

9. Increase your reading speed by focusing on phrases or groups of words (NOT every individual word) and learning the new vocabulary.

10. Develop the habit of reading. Allocate regular time for each course.


  1. Undergraduate Module
  2. Graduate Module
  3. Reading self-assessment, learning styles and approaches, and concentration
  4. Reading speed, skimming, levels of thinking, and critical reading checklist
  5. SQ4R, ConStruct, Multipass, Cornell System, mind maps and recorded notes
  6. Guided questions and strategies for research papers, assumptions, arguments and common logical fallacies
  7. Critical reading checklist, note-making strategies, memory and music, and staying on task