How to make good notes

This page has advice about how to make good notes on what you read or watch.


Note-making is an important skill. The process of making notes helps you understand and remember what you read or hear. And notes form the basis of preparing high-quality pieces of writing or oral presentations.

Following are five pieces of advice on how to take good notes on what you read.

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. 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 fact/opinion 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. @@ 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. ~~


Note-making is the essential academic skill that underlies the creation of good writing and oral presentations. Furthermore, the notes themselves are a permanent record that can be used when reviewing for tests.

Like all skills, note-making can be improved with practice. If you do an internet search, you will find many pages of more detailed information on how to improve this skill. You will also find many examples of graphic organizers that you can download.

A search tip: Note-making is also called Note-taking. And you will also see these words without the hyphen or separated: e.g. notetaking, note taking