How to take notes properly: every student must know!
What can you do to remember what you read better? Experts say that productive reading is the result of a learned skill. To develop it, you need to start by familiarizing yourself with and understanding the main directions in which books are written, as well as learning how to take notes.
Books consisting of facts and assertions
Such works aim to inform the reader about various entertaining and little-known facts, to arouse an active interest in a particular field of knowledge. For example, a book by Daniel Kahneman “Think slow … decide fast. Its author is engaged in the study of human thinking, the peculiarities of the decision-making process, and what role the private unconscious plays in this. Kahneman’s key idea is to demonstrate how the mind works in light of the latest discoveries in cognitive and social psychology.
The information presented in such books is, for the most part, academic. It is difficult to apply it in life, it is useless in everyday life, but it is desirable to know it to fully realize the inexhaustible diversity of the surrounding world and one’s place in it.
Basic reading techniques
Books containing facts need to know how to read. Here are some proven techniques to help you remember the information you read more effectively, especially academic information.
Before reading the first chapter, do the following:
- Study the table of contents of the book and try to identify the topic of the text;
- Flip through the publication, look at the illustrations, and run your eyes over the headings and subheadings;
- Try to formulate the key idea of what you have written and understand what associations you have read;
- Open the last pages and read the summary of the book.
- This will allow you to tune in to catch important information when you start reading the text.
Many people tend to highlight too large a passage, which, in addition to important information, contains unnecessary information. Also, some people like to mark a text without fully absorbing it and making sense of what they have written. As Walter Spider says in his book, ’How to Study in College’:
Read the text before you highlight it. That way, you’ll focus on making sense of it and underline the really important information.
You need to highlight keywords in the book: underline and write them out, and explain their meanings. This applies not only to new terms but also to already known ones. The main thing is that they form the semantic basis of the text. Highlighting keywords will help build a full-fledged “dialogue” with the text. Remember, the more text you highlight, the less useful the highlighting becomes.
Briefly and succinctly outline the key points after reading, reflecting on the facts that you think are most important and useful. You don’t have to wait until the chapter is over, take notes as you read. It’s most effective to read a small passage, immerse yourself in it and make sense of what you’ve read, then run your eyes over it again and write out the most important things.
What are the most important details? How do you know what to write down? In most cases, recording the main idea helps:
- Chapter titles and subheadings;
- key terms, which are often in bold or italics;
- the main topics (issues, problems) raised in the book;
- examples or theses that will help further understand the essence of the book.
It is not necessary to describe everything to the smallest detail, it is enough to scribble a couple of words, you can even in abbreviated form. A great example would be an outline by Charles Dahigg, which is presented in the book ‘The Power of Habit’.
To remember what you have read, you should retell it immediately after reading it. It is helpful to read the entire chapter at least twice, then review the highlighted portions of the text, glance at the outline, and only then write or sound out a summary of the chapter you have read. The retelling does not have to be large, as it is a condensed version of what you have read, with all the important points, facts, stated as accurately and as closely as possible to the original.
Interest is an important ingredient for effective learning and lasting memorization. Francis Lockwood said a century ago:
The secret of learning is our ability to be able to immerse thoughts, tasks, and lessons in the flow of interest.
If you have the time and opportunity, look for other sources of information that will spark interest in a topic. It can be books, but also interesting podcasts, a trip to a museum, or even a video game.
Books to read
These books can teach you things that will come in handy in life, make it more interesting, rich, and in some cases, even easier. Such books include “Music Theory,” “The Science of Cooking,” and so on. The best way to remember important information is to combine reading and doing, blending an academic approach with putting it into practice. For example, it could be useful for essay writer. Let’s look at a few good examples of how to put material from such books into practice:
- Let’s start with the book ‘Music Theory’ by Brian Boone. One of the things we learn at the beginning is information about the patterns of intervals that make up different harmonies. There are also specific patterns for minor and major harmonies. About this, you can just read and after some time to completely forget, because at a glance to understand and comprehend what it is quite difficult. However, to understand what you have read and remember it for a long time, you should write down one of these patterns on paper and then try to reproduce it on a musical instrument. A practical exercise will help you better understand how harmonies work, why they are needed, and what can be achieved with their help. It will be much more useful and effective than just reading and learning what is written.
- Another example, ‘The Cipher Book’ by Simon Singh. It describes the fascinating history of cryptography through stirring tales of espionage, intrigue, intellectual brilliance, and military cunning. If the historical information can be memorized through other techniques, the method of cryptanalysis will be much clearer when put into practice. At the end of the book are many puzzles, as you solve them, you will develop the skill of cryptanalysis. Gradually, your level of interest will increase, and the details will be remembered much better and faster.
After you’ve spent a couple of hours reading a book that interests you, be sure to take a walk and rest. You can’t absorb new information all the time, you need to give what you’ve read some time to settle in your head and assimilate it.
How to take notes properly: every student must know!