Before you get started: Filter the book by reading the preface, index, table of contents, and inside jacket. This tells you where the author is going to take you and, importantly, the vocabulary they will use. There are four steps to effectively taking notes while reading:
1. Write down the title
Write down the title of your source and the number or title of the chapter. This way, if you need to go back to the book to clarify information from your notes, you’ll know which book the information came from. At various points in your notes, you may also want to write down page numbers that correspond with key pieces of information.
2. Read the chapter
Read the chapter again, thoroughly. As you read, write down key terms, events, dates, important people and main ideas. If you’re reading a fiction book, jot down the names of characters and their roles or relationships to each other. In a bookd about Constantinople, your notes should reflect the date it was founded, the date it fell, its relationship to Rome and a very brief summary of its significance during the Crusades.
3. Write in phrases
Write in phrases or brief statements and use abbreviations whenever possible. You may develop your own set of abbreviations, however some common ones include “w/” instead of “with,” “&” instead of “and,” “c.” instead of “circa/about” and “est.” instead of “established.” You may also use arrows. For example, write an up-arrow to show that something increased, or a down arrow for a decrease. Write a right-facing arrow to show that one event was the result of the previous event.
4. Leave white space on your notebook pages
Leave plenty of white space on your notebook pages. Use a bullet format for lists when appropriate. Do not attempt to write block paragraphs or include a great deal of information. The purpose of taking notes is to boil the information down to its bare essentials. By leaving plenty of white space on your pages, you have the option of writing in brief, additional notes later.