Reading and Notemaking

Reading and Notemaking

Reading and Notemaking



Choosing what to read;

Check your reading list:

Lecturers/tutors generally provide a reading list at the start of term; pay attention to this!

  • Required Reading: You are expected to read everything on this.
  • Recommended Reading: Although each of these books are worth reading, you only need to read a selection.

Ensure that you know what you need to read. If in doubt, ask your lecture/tutor.

Is the source up to date?

  • Sign up to be alerted by email of new books in your subject that are added to the collection at the Boole Library. See  for more details.
  • Check whether statistical information is up to date. Find out if the findings/figures are the most recent.

Be effective – direct your reading;

  • Before you begin reading, set yourself specific questions which you want answers to.
  • Ask yourself those questions to raise your level of engagement with the material.
    • What point is the writer making here?
    • Why is this or that detail relevant?
    • Is the writer trying to answer a particular question here?
    • What lessons can be learnt from this text?


Making Notes

Making notes

Making notes when listening

Making effective notes during lectures is crucial to the understanding and retention of information. You will attend many lectures/tutorials/seminars over the course of your degree, so it is important to keep a good, organised record of what you learn. Never throw away notes; you never know when they will come in handy!

The following are some helpful hints about how to make effective notes during lectures:

Prepare Before Class:

  • Read any required readings.
  • Quickly read notes from the previous class to refresh your memory of the subject matter.
  • Become familiar with any technical jargon.

Be Organised:

  • Using A4 paper, start a new page for every lecture.
  • Ensure to write the date and page numbers on all pages.
  • Until you get to know your lectures, make a note of the lecturer’s name too!
  • Don’t keep notes on oddly shaped pieces of paper.
  • Keep notes and handouts in order and in one place (a lever arch file is best).

Listen Actively:

  • Be attentive to, focused and critically engaged with what is being said in class.
  • Ask yourself: ‘Do I agree?’, ‘Why might this be?’, ‘Is this always the case?’
  • Although difficult to do, try to ignore any distractions

Make Notes: Don’t take down every word spoken by the lecturer. Listen out for the following:

  • Reviews given at the beginning of class
  • Use rhetorical questions or word signals such as ‘firstly...’, ‘secondly...’ and ‘finally...’, ‘There are three major categories of...’, or ‘Why did this happen?’
  • Summaries given at the end of class
  • Material written on the slides/blackboard
  • Information that is repeated or emphasised
  • Think and Rethink:
  • Jot down possible questions raised by what is being said.
  • Think about the possible strengths and weaknesses of the new concepts you encounter.

Making notes when reading

1 – Be sure to keep a note of the bibliographic details of everything you read, and build your bibliography as you work. Try using Endnote if you are familiar with it, or get help using this software.

2 - Paraphrase rather than transcribe (write word-for-word);

3 - What is the author’s ‘take’ on the subject? How does this relate to your aim?

4 - In the margin, write down any questions raised for you by what you read as you go along.

5 - Make note of relevant quotations; however enclose it in quotation marks, otherwise you could get confused and use it in an essay without correctly referencing it.

6 - Use headings and sub-headings