Note-taking while reading is one of the most satisfying and productive activities I have ever done. Imbibing the habit of note-taking while reading enhanced my overall reading experience by leaps and bounds, and I highly recommend this practice to every reader out there.
Importance Of Taking Notes
It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a textbook for academic excellence, a novel for leisure, or a non-fiction book for more knowledge in a particular field. Taking notes will help you understand the text, remember what you’ve read for a far more extended period, and enrich your reading experience.
Note-Taking Will Help You:
- To focus better and engage with the reading material
- Process the text and think critically
- Organize your thoughts and opinions
- Scan through the pages and skim-read later
- Boil down your unique perspectives and draw conclusions
- Be well-prepared for your lectures and exams
Importance Of Genre & Purpose
Your note-taking style will vary based on the genre you’re reading and the purpose behind it. Some genres, like Classics and Historical Fiction, have a lot of room for reading extensively and accumulating information from all your reads in one place. Such books are also open to be perceived from different points of view, making note-taking an integral part of the reading process.
On the other hand, Young Adult Fiction will contain more relatable quotes and phrases that may uniquely inspire you. Similarly, if your purpose of reading is to empower your vocabulary, no matter the genre, your focus will be on the new words you encounter. Whereas, if your purpose is to write a literary essay afterward, your notes will be more meticulous and comprehensive. So, the importance of Genre and Purpose must be taken into consideration.
Physical Books vs. Ebooks
Note-taking will look very different depending on whether you read a physical book or an Ebook. I find note-taking with physical books more joyous and engaging because I use all my cute stationery items and deeply connect with every word. However, I must acknowledge the convenience of taking notes on an Ebook. It’s much more fuss-free, more straightforward, less time-consuming, and ideal if you have lots of reading to finish. Ebook readers have several built-in note-taking features that facilitate your reading experience. You can also use note-taking apps like Evernote, Simplenote, and Notability.
How To Take Notes While Reading Books?
There are several ways of taking notes while reading, but these are the five methods I follow religiously.
1. Underline, Circle & Highlight
If you like your books to look immaculate, or if you are reading a library book, there are better methods than this one for you. However, if you are reading from your copy and are okay with making the most out of your read, then hear me out on this one.
To begin with, Underlining and Highlighting makes your reading much more engaging. It helps you focus on every word. There is a connection between your hand and head that cannot be denied, which is why when you write down something, you connect with the words on a deeper level, facilitating you to memorize quickly and for a more extended period.
I like highlighting more than underlining because colors help me scan the pages afterward. You can use different color highlighters for different components, for example, pink for quotes, green for change in character graphs, blue for metaphors, etc. Ensure you cover only crucial words and phrases when underlining or highlighting.
Underlining and highlighting is to make it easier to review the essential points. You can also practice circling words and abbreviations. For example, if you come across a new word but visiting the dictionary immediately will cause distraction, you can continue to circle such words and later find their meanings. If you are working on building a solid vocabulary, jotting down these words along with their meanings in a separate notebook will be genuinely empowering.
2. Writing Smart Notes
Smart notes are quick thoughts and interpretations that you can write beside the sentences or in the margins. You can put a star or a number on a sentence and follow up by writing in the empty spaces on the page. Also, after every chapter, you can stick a Post-it note and summarize that chapter with bullet points. This will help you identify which chapter contains which information. You can also write down the meaning of difficult words on top of them to make it easier to comprehend afterward. Smart notes are quick and compact notes that you can add to the page itself, so the moment you focus on the page, you will know exactly what it’s about.
3. Maintaining a Notes Journal
Although Smart Notes are helpful, they need to be more comprehensive. Also, sometimes, the pages need more space to write anything. And it’s always a great idea to have a notebook dedicated to your reading because this can help you a lot. As a person who reviews books and writes articles about books and authors, I can’t live without my notes journal.
My Notes journal contains many Reference notes, which means I highlight a sentence or a phrase in the book and then write it down in my journal with my interpretation. Reading is a very subjective experience. The way I will interpret a sentence will be completely different from yours. Our experiences and level of understanding make reading a book unique for every reader. For example, when reading Ryan Holiday‘s book Ego Is The Enemy, many sentences and paragraphs resembled my life. I made sure I noted down those words in my journal, along with my thoughts on them. This has also helped me a lot in my self-development journey. It’s easier for me to identify my ego and how to keep it in check because I ensured to make the most out of each sentence from that book.
A Notes Journal will also help you to register all your quick mental notes. You can write down the page number on the top and add all your quick notes with bullet points.
Literary notes are much more technical and thorough. For example, identifying the theme, imagery, irony, allegory, tone, narrative, metaphor, symbol, parallelism, and alliteration and then analyzing each in your notes journal will help you prepare for your lectures or essays.
4. The Flashcard System
The Flashcard System is a fun and quirky technique to memorize something. So, you will only need flashcards if you must study for an exam or work on an intense assignment based on your readings. For those unaware, a flashcard is a card with information on both sides used as a memorization aid. On one side of the card, you are supposed to write either a question or a term, and the other side will contain the answer to the question or the definition of the term. Especially if you are dealing with one giant complicated question or concept, you can break it down into several small questions and answer them with each flash card. The Flashcard system is a boon while revising or collating data to work on a big project, for example, writing a book.
5. The Summarization Technique
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Summarizing your reads is one of the best ways to boil down everything you have read into a condensed self-written version, which will help you solidify your understanding of the book. You can write a chapter-wise summary, which will be exceptionally helpful. Or you can summarize the whole book once it’s complete. This is where your highlights and smart notes will come in handy. Writing a summary will help you to revise what you’ve read so far and also help you polish your writing skills.
Reading is an excellent habit because only some have the patience to sit through a book and still be hungry for more. However, what converts reading as a habit into a skill is the ability to comprehend, interpret, analyze, and bring your original voice to your reads. And I’m sure the above techniques and methods will help you take practical notes while reading.
Sneha Banerjee has been writing for half a decade now. She is also a professional copywriter and has worked for many businesses. She is a voracious reader, and her ultimate dream is to turn everyone into a reader.