Taking good notes while reading can be a challenge. Maybe you read for pleasure, and you don't need to take notes. But most people will need to take reading notes at some point in their lives, maybe for work, for school or even for personal entertainment. Remembering everything you read can be difficult, and that's where the notes come in. Those notes need to make sense to be useful.

Step 1

Evaluate how much reading material you need notes for and how you will use the notes. Maybe you have to make good notes for one article in a magazine, or perhaps you need to take notes for an entire novel. Clearly understanding exactly why you are taking notes and how long the reading material is will help you stay on track.

Step 2

Determine the level of detail you need. Understanding your needs will allow you to easily find pertinent information in your reading material. If you only need to remember certain key names and dates, then you probably don't need to record too much detail.

Step 3

Read with a pen in hand and paper nearby. Take notes as you write, or even make notes directly in the text by underlining key passages, circling important dates or words, and writing brief notes in the margins. You could also record notes on a computer. Take notes while you read, rather than trying to remember the information after you're finished reading. Jot down key items immediately after coming across them. If you wait until you finish the reading, then you may forget important details.

Step 4

Underlineor star important details or ideas while you read. After coming to a logical stopping point, such as the end of a sentence, paragraph or section, take a moment to jot the item on your note paper. Write a brief description, along with the page number that your item corresponds to. This will allow you to refer back to the original source easily.

Step 5

Take a moment when you come to a new idea or concept to briefly write about the previous idea or concept. Reviewing the reading this way will ready your mind to make connections between concepts and ideas.

Step 6

Review your written notes after finishing a reading section. Do they make sense? More importantly, do you think you will understand to what certain words refer when you review your notes at a later date? If you answer "No," to either question, review the passages and update your notes until the answer is "Yes."


  • Jotting down notes while you read makes the reading process much more interactive and helps transfer the information to long-term memory. In addition to the notes, you will be able to better remember the reading material even without referring to your reading notes.