Developing a good method of note-taking can help you to recognise the main ideas, think critically, analyse, question, remain focused, establish connections and draw conclusions about the text being read.

Taking effective notes

There are many ways to take effective notes. Some people find it good to use catalogue cards, others prefer to use sheets of A3 paper and others like to type straight into a note-taking document or app. It is a matter of working out what suits you best.

Generally, you need to make sure you include the following information:

  • reference details – author, year of publication, title of book/article, journal title, place of publication, publisher, page numbers, web address, date accessed
  • paraphrased or summarised ideas of the text and possibly several direct quotes
  • your personal responses to the text and various ideas found within it

Good note-taking skills will also ensure that you are able to identify where various ideas have been found which makes proper referencing much easier.

One method of note-taking involves dividing the page into three columns:

Reference details: Author’s surname and initial, year of publication, book/article title, journal title, publisher, place of publication, page numbers of article, internet URL address details

Page number



Ensure you write down the page number, especially for direct quotes

  • Paraphrased notes:
    Rewrite somebody else’s ideas in your own words. You do this by understanding the idea and then writing it in your own words without looking at the source.
  • Summarised information:
    Write an overview of the main ideas.
  • Direct quotes:
    Put inverted commas around the quote to ensure you remember these are someone else’s words.

Your responses or thoughts on what you have read

Consider questions such as:

  • How does this information relate to other texts?
  • What are the important links?
  • How is this relevant?
  • Do I agree or disagree? Why?
  • Is there anything new or different being discussed here?
  • What conclusions can be drawn?