Making notes from reading

Why do you need to make notes?

• To record important information and its source.
• To improve understanding and make links with existing knowledge.
• To gather information for assignments, essays and presentations.
• To help you remember the information.

How to make notes?

• Always note page numbers, chapters and full bibliographical details for referencing. See Referencing for more information.
• Don’t write notes on the first reading – gain an overview first and consider a reading technique such as SQ3R.
• Think about your purpose in reading and only make notes of the information you actually need.
• Put information into your own words as this will help you process and remember it better. Or, consider putting it into a different format altogether: mind map, diagram, table etc.
• In contrast, copy down quotes word-for-word. Consider colour coding them so you know they are someone else's words.
• Use symbols, colour, arrows and boxes to make information stand out.
• Abbreviations can help keep notes short and concise. See Portsmouth’s Helpful abbreviations for guidance. If you use lots, make a key so you remember what they mean.
• Leave plenty of space for reviewing and adding. Write on one side or every other line. Consider using the Cornell Technique for this.
• Try out one of the following reading templates:


• Store your notes logically in folders and sub-folders (real or digital). Evernote and One Note are both good for online notes. Notion for Education is another popular online tool.

Some examples

Seven ways to make notes will give you an overview.
• This YouTube video How to take notes – 5 best methods will show you how.
• Watch how one (very organised) student takes efficient and neat notes on YouTube.