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How to make good notes

Here are 5 pieces of advice on how to take good notes:

Be sure you know exactly what information you have to find

The more exactly you know what you are looking for, the easier it will be to write good notes. Imagine you are doing a project on explorers and you have chosen to write about Christopher Columbus. Find out from your teacher precisely what information you need to include in your work.

Mark the passages containing useful information.

Mark the passages containing useful information. If you have found something on the internet, you can print out the page and mark the useful passages with a highlighter. Alternatively, you can copy the passage into a Notes document (e.g. that you have made in Microsoft Word). If the information source is a book or magazine, you can copy the page and highlight as above, or you can mark the passage very lightly with a pencil (to be erased later).

Remember: Highlighting is not note-taking. It is what you do before you take notes!

More on internet research

Make your notes short

Do not write complete sentences - use abbreviations and symbols. Do not use words like "a" and "the". Sometimes it’s better to draw a quick diagram than to write words or phrases; e.g. if you want to show Columbus’ route to America.

Think about using a graphic organizer

A graphic organizer is just a piece of paper that is divided into different sections for you to write in your notes. This means that you can organize your notes as you are making them, not afterwards. A mind-map is one example of a graphic organizer; so is a Venn diagram, or a problem/solution chart.

[ View a video showing how to use a further example of a graphic organizer. ]

Make sure your notes are legible

It’s no use scribbling quick notes that you can’t read later. It helps to space out your notes down the page, so that you can easily add new information if necessary. If you number your notes, this will help to keep them organized.

Use your own words

Do not just copy chunks from the highlighted/marked text. If you do this, you run the risk of plagiarism, resulting in an 0 for the work - and other problems! It is worth repeating: If you take notes in your language before composing in English, you can be sure that you have used your own words, and understand what you have written.


Graphic organizer sources: http://www.mindmapinspiration.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/bird-facts-mind-map.gif, http://0.tqn.com/d/homeworktips/1/0/M/7/-/-/venn.JPG, http://aim.cast.org/sites/aim.cast.org/files/gorgimage5.jpg.


Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)