Taking Notes from Your Reading

Although the human brain is powerful, it can’t store everything we hear, see or read in our lifetime. Every new piece of information acquired by the brain replaces the old one, but what if we want to remember something we read for a long time or even permanently?  One of the best practices to do that is note-taking. No matter if we read fiction or non-fiction, taking notes improves the learning process and helps to remember the data for a long period. To put it simply, it extends the memory.  

Best way to take notes?

There is no definitive way to take perfect notes, and it depends on the person. Some underline or highlight the parts on the paper/book itself, some use pen and paper, and others use computers. The computer has an advantage in that that if you take lengthy notes, it is easier to find the specific information with a shortcut such as “Ctrl+F” or search option on the apps.  Otherwise, studies suggest that traditional pen and paper note-taking is the most efficient choice as it lets you do instant modifications on the notes.

What should you NOT do?

Don’t write down everything. What most people do while taking notes from reading is that they write almost everything word-to-word. That is not helpful, especially if the text is long. Note-taking aims to help understand information properly and faster by narrowing it down to essentials, not to copy the exact same thing. Expressing the dominant ideas in your own words, either by paraphrasing or shortening, is the recommended method for practical notes. The result should be as brief as possible while maintaining the main points.

Benefits of note-taking

  • Notes make it easy to summarize the whole text. A summary is a brief description of the key elements the text contains. Having your notes ready puts you one step ahead in summarizing.
  • It makes you actively engage with the text and, as a result, understand and memorize it better.
  • It helps to organize the data by eliminating the content that is not relevant.
  • Lets you put references to other works.
  • It significantly improves the data coding process if you are a researcher.

Note-taking methods and tools

There are different note-taking approaches such as the Cornell method, mind-mapping, charting method, concept mapping, outline method, etc. These are just some of the available methods. It is recommended to test all of them to find the one that fits your style the best. It is also possible to use some of them side by side, depending on the reading material.

Today, application stores and software websites are full of various tools available for note-taking. OneNote, Evernote, Google Keep, Notion, Apple Notes are some of them used by millions of people around the globe. They allow embedding media from the device, clipping articles from the web, scanning documents, sorting notes by creation and modification time, linking notes to one another, among other things.