Developing a good method of note taking can help you to recognise the main ideas, think critically, analyse, question, remain focussed, 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 helpful to use catalogue cards, others prefer to use sheets of A3 paper, and others like to type straight into a note-taking document on their computer. Taking effective notes 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 site details

Page number



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

  • Paraphrased notes:
    involves rewriting somebody else’s ideas in your own words. You do this by first understanding the writer's idea/s and then writing it in your own words without looking at the source
  • Summarised information:
    involves writing an overview of the main idea/s
  • Direct quotes:
    are enclosed in quotation marks ("......") to ensure that 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 text relevant?
  • Do I agree or disagree with what I have read? Why? Why not?
  • Is there anything new or different being discussed here?
  • What conclusions can be drawn from this text?


You can download this template and check out other (including the Cornell Method) below.