CompFAQ/Reading Notes

From Gerald R. Lucas
📝 English Composition Writing FAQ 11011102📖

Taking Effective Reading Notes by Active Reading

Reading is an essential skill for college students, especially when it comes to improving your writing. When you read critically for composition courses, you should read for comprehension, or course, but also to analyze the writing and note important details that can be used to improve your own writing. One effective way to do this is by taking notes as you read. Below, we will discuss the importance of taking notes while reading, provide strategies for reading, discuss what to notice when reading, explain how to annotate what you read, and finally, what to take as notes. By practicing the ideas here, you will have a better understanding of how to read critically and take effective notes that will help you improve your essay writing.

Reading a text is not enough to absorb all the important points it is trying to convey. Taking notes while reading is an essential strategy that allows you to gather and retain critical information. By taking notes, you can reflect on what you are reading, analyze the author’s arguments and themes, and make connections between different ideas. This process can help you identify key themes, arguments, and examples, which can be used to support your own arguments in your essays.

The first step to taking effective notes while reading is to develop effective reading strategies. One strategy is to skim the text before reading it. This will give you an overview of the text and allow you to identify its structure and the author’s main arguments. Another strategy is to read actively, which means engaging with the text by asking questions, making predictions, and evaluating the author’s arguments.

Consider these specific strategies for active reading:

  1. Preview the material: Before reading the text, take a few moments to preview it. Look at the headings, subheadings, and any bolded or italicized words. This will help you get a sense of the main ideas and structure of the text.
  2. Annotate the text: As you read, annotate the text by underlining or highlighting key points, circling unfamiliar words, and writing brief notes in the margins. This will help you stay engaged with the material and retain important information.
  3. Ask questions: As you read, ask yourself questions about the text. What is the main idea? What evidence supports this idea? What are the author’s biases or assumptions? What questions do you have after reading this section?
  4. Summarize: After reading each section, summarize the main points in your own words. This will help you retain the information and identify the most important ideas.
  5. Reflect: Take a few minutes after reading to reflect on what you’ve learned. How does this material connect to other readings or discussions in class? What new insights have you gained?
  6. Take notes: Finally, take notes on the key points and ideas you've identified. This will help you organize your thoughts and prepare for writing about the text later.

While reading, also pay attention to the author’s writing style, tone, and voice. Take note of the rhetorical devices used by the author, such as metaphors, analogies, and repetition. This information can be used to analyze the author’s arguments and identify key themes and ideas.

 note: Remember that part of reading for a composition class is to gain insights to improve your writing. Note what the essay does well and how the writer achieves this effect. Try to emulate these strategies in your own writing.

Annotating the text is another effective way to take notes while reading. This involves marking up the text with notes, highlighting, and underlining. When annotating, consider using symbols to identify key points or ideas, such as an exclamation mark for a surprising fact or a question mark for something that needs further investigation. Use the margins to write your own ideas about the text—this is what the margins in books are for.

The final step to taking effective notes while reading is to organize the information you have gathered. Consider organizing your notes by topic or theme, and include quotations or paraphrases from the text that support your own arguments. Remember to include proper citation for your sources to avoid plagiarism.

Taking notes while reading is an essential skill for college students, especially when it comes to writing essays. Effective reading strategies, paying attention to the author’s writing style, annotating the text, and organizing notes are all crucial components of this process. By taking effective notes, you can identify key arguments and themes, analyze the author’s writing style and arguments, and gather evidence to support your own arguments in your essays. Start practicing these strategies, and you will see a significant improvement in your essay writing skills.

For more, see the exercise “Tackle that Challenging Text.”

Further Reading

• “Reading in College

Written: 2002, 2022; Revised: 05-1-2023; Version: Beta 0.7 💬