Reading and note-taking

Reading and taking notes are integral to learning at university. The resources in this section will help you improve your reading skills, prioritize your readings, and choose an effective note-taking and review strategy to help you remember what you read.

Modules and resources: Reading and note-taking

MODULE: Reading & Note-taking

Improving your reading and note-making skills in undergrad.

Reading with purpose

Skimming, levels of thinking, four levels of questions, critical reading checklist

Strategies for note-taking

SQ4R, ConStruct, Multipass, the Cornell method, graphic organizers, and mind maps

Strategies for note-taking in graduate school

Critical reading checklist, general note-making strategies, staying on task

Strategies for reading research papers

Guided questions and tips for research papers, assumptions, arguments, common logical fallacies

Quick tips to improve your reading

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.

postit2. Determine your reason for reading. For example,

  • 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 the big picture of the text.

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

5. Think of questions as you read to keep yourself engaged with the text.

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 efficiency by identifying your purpose for reading (e.g., skimming for the gist, reading for understanding) and learning the new vocabulary.

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

Image courtesy of Benson Kua under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No-Derivations 2.0 license.

Return to Learning Resources