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How to take notes while reading a book

https://nesslabs.com/how-to-take-notes-while-reading-a-book

nesslabs.com

How to take notes while reading a book
When reading a book, taking notes interrupts our reading flow. There is a fine balance between taking too many notes and taking too few notes.

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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 too many notes - and reading too slowly- and too few notes which prevent us from capturing enough knowledge from the book.

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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.

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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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Import your ideas in your note-taking system

An optional step is to import your highlights and marginalia into your note-taking system.

Importing these ideas into a note-taking system is a way to create a dialogue between the authors whose work you have read while encouraging the interlinking of ideas.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

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.
  • Not...

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?

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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Taking Smart Notes

When we take notes, it should not become a stack of forgotten thoughts. Our notes should be a rich and interconnected collection of ideas we can draw on regardless of where our interests lead us.

Luhmann's slip-box

German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) designed his slip-box made up of index cards. They were thematically unlimited. His simple system produced a prolific output. Over his 30-year career,  Luhmann published 58 books and hundreds of articles while completing his two-volume masterwork, The Society of Society (1997).  He regularly pointed to his slip-box as the source for his fantastic productivity.

How Luhmann's slip-box worked

  • He wrote down any interesting or potentially useful ideas on uniformly sized index cards on one side only.
  • Each new index card got a sequential number, starting at 1.
  • When a new source was added to that topic or something to supplement it, he would add new index cards with letters added to the number (1a, 1b, 1c, etc.)
  • These branching connections were marked in red as close as possible, where the branch began.
  • Any of these branches could also have their own branches. (For example 21/3d26g53)
  • As he read, he would create new cards, update or add comments to existing ones, create new branches from existing cards, or create new links between cards.

A reading log

A reading log

A reading log is a place to write down your reactions to what you're reading.

Doing this will allow you to gain insight into the theme and plot, will help you understand wha...

How to Keep a Reading Journal

Start by writing down your immediate reactions as you read through the book.

  • How do your impressions change halfway through the book?
  • How do you feel after finishing the book?
  • What emotions did the book evoke?
  • Are there connections between the book and your own experience?
  • Does the book similar in part to another book you've read?

Characters in the Book

Write about the characters, considering these questions:

  • Which character do you like the most? Why?
  • Is there a character you dislike? Why?
  • Do you think that any of the characters represent real people?
  • Do any of the characters represent general personality types?
  • Is the author commenting on these types of people?