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= Note-taking basics[1]
Why take notes?
Note-taking is closely linked with reading and it helps you to
  • Concentrate on what you’re reading
  • Gather and evaluate information
  • Form links between the different texts that you’ve read
  • Draw conclusions
  • Remember things
  • Summarise ideas and arguments

Active note-taking
  • To take notes efficiently, keep your purpose in mind
  • Go over lecture/tutorial/background material before reading
  • Be wary of merely underlining or highlighting a text
  • Ask questions of the text, for example, Why is this important? How has the author constructed the argument? Is the evidence persuasive?

What to note?
  • Consider context
  • Analyse your assignment topic/purpose before you begin so you can assess what materialyou need
  • Identify bibliographic material
  • Identify relevant quotations, author’s intention, purpose, argument, evidence
  • Your notes should reflect the demands of your assignment topic/thesis

How to take notes?
  • There’s no one formula
  • Flexible system: use a note-book or index cards for each course/topic/chapter; develop a note-taking template; store notes online
  • Bibliographic information: author, date, title, place of publication, publisher, edition, pages etc
  • Leave space for comments and reactions to the text
  • If you copy a quotation, copy it exactly (words, punctuation etc) and record the page number
  • Clearly identify the author’s ideas, arguments, theories, concepts from your own

=Annotating text[2]
As an "active reader," you already know that when you read academic texts, you should have questions in your mind. As you read, you should be looking for the answers to these questions. You should also have a pencil in hand so that you can "annotate" your text. As the word suggests, you "take notes" in your textbook.

Unlike "highlighting," which is a passive activity, the process of annotating text helps you to stay focused and involved with your textbook. You'll find that the process of taking notes as you read will help you to concentrate better. It will also help you to monitor and improve your comprehension. If you come across something that you don't understand or that you need to ask you instructor about, you'll be able to quickly make note of it, and then go on with your reading.

The following is a list of some techniques that you can use to annotate text:
  • Underline important terms
  • Circle definitions and meanings
  • Write key words and definitions in the margin
  • Signal where important information can be found with key words or symbols in the margin
  • Write short summaries in the margin at the end of sub-units
  • Write the questions in the margin next to the section where the answer is found
  • Indicate steps in a process by using numbers in the margin.
AnnotatedText.jpg
Example of annotated text. From Meg Keeley.


Note-taking methods

In different cognate areas, you will want to record different information relating to your reading:[3]

Humanities
  • Bibliographic details
  • Topic
  • Theoretical framework/thesis
  • Arguments
  • Evidence
  • Quotes and page numbers
  • Your evaluation and comments (clearly marked as such in a different colour or part of your notes)
Social sciences
  • Bibliographic details
  • Topic
  • Theoretical framework
  • Conclusion
  • Arguments
  • Data
  • Case studies
  • Experimental evidence/srveys
  • Methodology
  • Your evaluation and comments (clearly marked as such in a different colour or part of your notes)
Sciences
  • Bibliographic details
  • Topic
  • Theory tested
  • Experimental evidence
  • Data
  • Case studies
  • Methodology
  • Inferences
  • Your evaluation and comments (clearly marked as such in a different colour or part of your notes)
Consider using a template for your note-taking. Include the various categories listed above, according to your cognate area, and don’t forget to leave space for tapping background knowledge, setting purposes and making predictions. See overleaf for an example of a two-page template that also includes pre-reading activities such as tapping background knowledge, setting purposes and making predictions.
NoteTakingTemplate1.png
NoteTakingTemplate2.png
Example of note-taking template

Identifying relevant information

Elements to look for to find relevant information[4]
Introduction or problem statement
Theoretical sections or chapters
Method, analysis, conclusion chapters
Definitions
Events
Evidence
Motives
Perspective
problems
Questions
Standpoints
Styles
Arguments
Concepts
Evidence
Ethics
Hypothesis
Interpretations
Justification
Styles of thinking
Theory
Conclusion
Design
Justification
New research questions
Recommendations
results
Summary
Techniques
Text indicators[5]
Look out for conclusion indicators. Conclusions are often signposted by the use of indicator words. The following words indicate that they are likely to be followed by the conclusion of an argument:
  • let us conclude that
  • we conclude that
  • we can conclude that
  • concluding
  • thus
  • therefore
  • so
  • consequently
  • hence
  • then
Look out for premise indicators
  • since
  • as
  • for
  • because
  • assuming that
  • supposing that
  • given that
  • for the reason that
  • if such and such
There are also indicators that signal that what goes before is a premise, and that what comes after is a conclusion:

Look out for argument sequence indicators
  • premise...then...conclusion
  • ...shows that...
  • ...indicates that...
  • ...proves that...
  • ...entails that......implies that...
  • ...establishes that
  • ...allows us to infer that…
  • ...gives us reasons for believing that…
Indicators can also signal a reverse sequence: that a conclusion which comes before has as its premises some statements which come after:
  • conclusion...then..premise
  • ...is shown by...
  • ...is indicated by...
  • ...is proven by...
  • ...is entailed by...
  • ...is implied by...
  • ...is established by...

Critical questioning

To guide your critical thinking, you might like to consider some of the questions below when analysing material you are reading.
Guiding Critical Questions[6]
  • What inferences are being made about …? Are these inferences legitimate?
  • What are the short-term and/long-term implications of …?
  • What are the biases behind …?
  • Does … affect our understanding of the problem?
  • Are there political/governmental/ideological considerations that limit or influence understanding of the problem?
  • What are the relationships between …? Are there inconsistencies or shortcomings?
  • What other views do we need to account for?
  • Are there contradictions? Is evidence lacking or inconclusive?
Question starters
Specific thinking skills
What are some possible solutions to the problem?
Synthesis of ideas
Compare … to … with regard to …
Comparison-contrast
What do you think causes … Why?
Analysis of relationship (cause/effect)
Do you agree or disagree with this statement ... ?
Evaluation and provision of evidence
What evidence is there to support your answer?
Evaluation and provision of evidence
How do you think … would see the issue of … ?
Taking other perspectives
Questioning using Bloom's Taxonomy[7]
Level 1: Knowledge
  • What is . . . ? How is . . . ?
  • Where is . . . ? When did _ happen?
  • How did happen? How would you explain . . . ?
  • Why did . . . ? How would you describe . . . ?
  • When did . . . ? Can you recall . . . ?
  • How would you show . . . ? Can you select . . . ?
  • Who were the main . . . ? Can you list three . . . ?
  • Which one . . . ? Who was . . . ?
Level 2: Comprehension
  • How would you classify the type of . . . ?
  • How would you compare . . . ? contrast . . . ?
  • Will you state or interpret in your own words . . . ?
  • How would you rephrase the meaning . . . ?
  • What facts or ideas show . . . ?
  • What is the main idea of . . . ?
  • Which statements support . . . ?
  • Can you explain what is happening . . . what is meant . . .?
  • What can you say about . . . ?
  • Which is the best answer . . . ?
  • How would you summarize . . . ?
Level 3: Application
  • How would you use . . . ?
  • What examples can you find to . . . ?
  • How would you solve _ using what you have learned . . . ?
  • How would you organize _ to show . . . ?
  • How would you show your understanding of . . . ?
  • What approach would you use to . . . ?
  • How would you apply what you learned to develop . . . ?
  • What other way would you plan to . . . ?
  • What would result if . . . ?
  • Can you make use of the facts to . . . ?
  • What elements would you choose to change . . . ?
  • What facts would you select to show . . . ?
  • What questions would you ask in an interview with . . . ?
Level 4: Analysis
  • What are the parts or features of . . . ?
  • How is ... related to . . . ?
  • Why do you think . . . ?
  • What is the theme . . . ?
  • What motive is there . . . ?
  • Can you list the parts . . . ?
  • What inference can you make . . . ?
  • What conclusions can you draw . . . ?
  • How would you classify . . . ?
  • How would you categorize . . . ?
  • Can you identify the different parts . . . ?
  • What evidence can you find . . . ?
  • What is the relationship between . . . ?
  • Can you make a distinction between . . . ?
  • What is the function of . . . ?
  • What ideas justify . . . ?
Level 5: Synthesis
  • What changes would you make to solve . . . ?
  • How would you improve . . . ?
  • What would happen if . . . ?
  • Can you elaborate on the reason . . . ?
  • Can you propose an alternative . . . ?
  • Can you invent . . . ?
  • How would you adapt to create a different . . . ?
  • How could you change (modify) the plot (plan) . . . ?
  • What could be done to minimize (maximize) . . . ?
  • What way would you design . . . ?
  • What could be combined to improve (change) . . . ?
  • Suppose you could ... what would you do . . . ?
  • How would you test . . . ?
  • Can you formulate a theory for . . . ?
  • Can you predict the outcome if . . . ?
  • How would you estimate the results for . . . ?
  • What facts can you compile . . . ?
  • Can you construct a model that would change . . . ?
  • Can you think of an original way for the . . . ?
Level 6: Evaluation
  • Do you agree with the actions . . . ? with the outcomes . . . ?
  • What is your opinion of . . . ?
  • How would you prove . . . ? disprove . . . ?
  • Can you assess the value or importance of . . . ?
  • Would it be better if . . . ?
  • Why did they (the character) choose . . . ?
  • What would you recommend . . . ?
  • How would you rate the . . . ?
  • What would you cite to defend the actions . . . ?
  • How would you evaluate . . . ?
  • How could you determine . . . ?
  • What choice would you have made . . . ?
  • What would you select . . . ?
  • How would you prioritize . . . ?
  • What judgment would you make about . . . ?
  • Based on what you know, how would you explain . . . ?
  • What information would you use to support the view . . . ?
  • How would you justify . . . ?
  • What data was used to make the conclusion . . . ?
  • Why was it better that . . . ?
  • How would you prioritize the facts . . . ?
  • How would you compare the ideas . . . ? people . . . ?
Exercise. Working in pairs, critically assess the two articles you have just read using some of the questions outlined above. Be selective in the questions you ask; make sure they are relevant to an assignment you have to complete for your class.

You should
  • determine the arguments of each article
  • ask critical questions questions about the arguments
  • synthesise the arguments, thus creating a new meaning
  • evaluate the arguments by making informed judgements about the validity of the arguments.

Common problems with note-taking

  • You get bored
  • Problems identifying relevant information
  • Failure to keep record full bibliographic details
  • Taking the information at face-value
  • Lack of focus/reasons for taking notes
  • You take notes out of context

Online note-taking options

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  1. ^ =
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    Boddington, Paula, and John Clanchy. 1999. Reading and Studying for Research. South Melbourne: Longman. Ch. 5.
    Clanchy, John and Brigid Ballard. 1997. Essay Writing for Students: A Practical Guide. 3rd edition. South Melbourne: Longman. pp. 19-43.
  2. ^






    =
    **=
    Keeley, Meg. 2003. Annotating text. <http://www.bucks.edu/~specpop/Access/annotated.htm>. Accessed: 24 April 2003.
    Keeley, Meg. 2003. Example of annotated text. <http://www.bucks.edu/~specpop/annotate-ex.htm>. Accessed: 24 April 2003.
  3. ^








    Academic Skills and Learning Centre, ANU. n.d. Managing reading and note-taking at university. Pamphlett.
  4. ^







    **
    Jesson, Jill K., Lydia Matheson and Fiona M. Lacey. Doing Your Literature Review. Traditional and systematic techniques. Los Angeles: Sage, p. 63
  5. ^







    **
    Teaching and Learning Unit, Faculty of Commerce. "Critical thinking 1". Pamphlet. University of Melbourne.
  6. ^








    Wlodkowski, Raymond J. 1999. Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishing.
  7. ^







    Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum Project, Longview Community College. 1996. Bloom's Taxonomy and critical thinking. <http://www.kcmetro.cc.mo.us/longview/ctac/blooms.htm>. Accessed: 22 April 2003.