top of page

The Hoya Way to Taking the Best Reading Notes

You know you're officially a college student when a prof assigns a 500-page book and a five-page essay all due in one week :D If you're me, that realization came the second week of freshmen fall. Have you been struggling to get through your reading heavy classes and participating in discussions? Want to try out a new note-taking style? As a veteran of SFS's humanities-based courses, I'm going to share a note-taking method that has gotten me through 100s of readings with you today.

Step 1: Make a copy of this template document (made by urs truly :') )

This template can be applied to individual book chapters, articles, or—on a broader scope—entire books. What's important here is that you have each component: title, author, question, argument, evidence, final points, my points, and my questions. Here's an example of what a completed note document looks like. I'll break down each component in the next step.

Step 2: Fill that shi- out. Yes. Every part.

The breakdown of the template is pretty intuitive, but I'll go over each component more specifically here:

  • Title: Write the title of the reading here.

  • Author: Write the names of all authors here. This is important because some professors will refer to readings solely by the last name of authors. It's important to be able to make connections between important concepts and the authors they were introduced by.

  • Question: Here is where you write the main question that the author is trying to answer. Some authors will state this explicitly in their introduction. Others will not, but it should relatively easy to deduce.

  • Argument: The author's argument is their answer to the question stated above. What are the author's conclusions and opinions about the topic? What are they trying to prove in this written piece? This is the author's thesis.

  • Evidence: How does the author prove their argument? This is where you will write the evidence used by the author in support of their argument. For more quantitative articles you can note any important empirical evidence or quickly jot down how they conducted their research/studies.

  • Final points: What's the takeaway that the author wants you to leave with? This is the 'so what'. When taking notes for this part think how you would answer if the professor asked you "Can someone summarize what this article is about?" Most professors in discussion-based courses will ask some iteration of this question and writing notes down for this part means that you will be prepared to answer it right off the bat!

  • My points: Did you have any outstanding thoughts while reading the assignment? This could be connections you make to other readings or other classes that you've taken. Hint: professors love this.

  • My Questions: And lastly, did you have any questions about anything from the readings? Maybe you found a flaw in the author's argument you want to ask the professor about or you needed some clarification on this point. It's great to note these questions separately because most professors will ask the students if they have any questions throughout the class. Having these questions premeditated and prepared shows that you are thinking and engaged with the material.

When you're done with this your notes should be 1-2 pages. You can write your answers in paragraph or list form depending on your preference and how much time you have to complete your readings.

Step 3: Print it out, bring it to class, use it to study for exams...

Now that you've put in the work, all you've got to do is bring it to class! No more scrambling around for specific quotes in the hundreds of pages of readings you did for class or wracking your brain trying to remember which author said what. When it comes to exam time, you can compile all of your separate reading notes into one master doc and use it as a study guide as well. Good luck!

180 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page