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.

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.