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How to Take Notes While Reading

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2019/01/29/take-notes-while-reading/

scotthyoung.com

How to Take Notes While Reading
Note-taking is a powerful tool. But it can be hard to take notes while reading. Here's how you can maximize your ability to remember, reference and learn.

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Note-taking: a powerful tool for learning

Note-taking: a powerful tool for learning
  • Notes extend your memories: writing can be seen as an external enhancement of your brain, allowing you to think more complicated thoughts and solve harder problems.
  • Notes enhance your focus: The act of taking notes ensures your mind isn’t wandering and facilitates deeper understanding of what you're reading.

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Figure out your purpose

Ask yourself why are you reading:

  • What am I trying to remember? 
  • How am I going to use this information? (e.g. on a test, cited in an essay, etc.)
  • What do I plan to do with the notes later? Will you be studying off of them extensively? Or maybe you’re just taking notes to stay focused, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll look through them after?

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Strategies for note-taking

  • Jot notes in the margin. These aren’t particularly searchable, but they allow you to reiterate the main idea.
  • Keep a small notepad on the side, take breaks each section to jot down the main ideas. 
  • Create flashcards. In the rarer situations where memorization of details is important, then a simple strategy can be to just create flashcards while you take notes. 

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Review vs. Recall

Decide whether to optimize for review or retrieval practice. 

  • For docs you don’t plan to extensively study, review is the obvious choice. 
  • For texts you need to master perfectly, the Question Book Method (for big idea) or flashcards (for details) saves time.

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Creating Clues for Future Searches

  • Digital: systems like Evernote, make note-taking easier. Although, even the simple note-taking features on Kindle can work quite well.
  • Paper:  you can even put little sticky tags on the book to mark passages that refer to that.

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How to Take Notes While Reading

How to Take Notes While Reading
  1. Figure out your purpose.
  2. Choose a technique that maximizes your focus on what is most relevant for your purpose. 
  3. Decide whether to optimize for review or retrieval practice.  
  4. If you do need to go back into the text again and again, create clues in your notes that can help you find what you’re looking for faster.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Taking notes requires a balance

Taking notes requires a balance

It’s easier to take notes when we’re listening to content because our hands are free. But when reading a book, taking notes interrupts our reading flow.

There is a balance between taking t...

Consider why you want to take notes

Before you start taking notes, ask yourself what your goal is.

  • Paper versus digital. If your goal is to study the content of a book, paper is better. But if your goal is to be able to reference certain parts of the book easily, an ebook may be better suited.
  • Serendipity versus control. When you want to take notes to read them for pleasure afterwards, highlighting and marginalia could be more suited. But if rediscovery is your desire, a structured system, such as an index of the key ideas, may be better.
  • Learning versus creating. If you want to learn from a book, your notes will be factual, but if you're going to create your own content, your notes will be more original.

Capture key ideas without interrupting your reading flow

Taking notes should not become a tedious process, but it should be made as seamless as possible.

  • If you are reading a physical book, write down main ideas or questions in the margins. Try to keep it very short. If you are reading an ebook, highlight the essential parts and write a few words to add contextual information.
  • If your goal is to learn or reference your notes in the future, you may want to stop at the end of each chapter and collate the ideas separately from the text. This can be done on the inside cover of the book, or on a separate index card, where you rewrite the key ideas with the corresponding page numbers.

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Note Taking - Starter Tips

Preparation steps before a note-taking session:

  • Try to get familiar with the topic that is going to be discussed, beforehand. This leads to better understanding.
  • M...

Outline Method

Taking a structured approach to note-taking is the best way. Put the outline notes by choosing four or five key points of the lecture, followed by in-depth sub-points. One way to review is to use the Cornell Method, which divides the note sheet into three sections:

  • Cues: It includes key questions and main points.
  • Notes: Which you write during the class using the outline method. 
  • Summary: Which you can write after class while reviewing.

The Mind Map

The mind map is a visual diagram of abstract concepts.

It works best in subjects like chemistry, history and philosophy, subjects having a neural network like interlocked and complex topics. 

Meta-Learning

It's knowing how to learn. Learning itself is a skill, and knowing how to do it well is an incredibly valuable advantage.

Merely acquiring information is not learning....

Learning has 2 phases

Learning is a two-step process:

  • Read/listen: feeding ourselves new information.
  • Process and recall what you’ve just ‘learned’: connecting new materials to what we already knew.

Remembering the right things

You should not waste your time by committing unimportant details to memory. 

Your focus should be on understanding the bigger picture, on how things relate to each other.