Should You Take Notes When Reading?

We all read differently and therefore the art of reading is a subjective art.

There are various reading techniques that work really well and most of the times people have their preferences.

This post will discuss reading and note taking because its something debated a lot.

Most newbie readers are usually not sure as to whether note taking will work to their benefit or not.

With that said, Should you take notes when reading?

Taking notes when reading is a matter of preference. There are a no specific rules that say note taking should be done or not while reading. Some prefer to take notes to keep track of the important things they come across while others prefer to read without being distracted with taking notes.

Therefore, it is okay to take notes or to simply not.

Whichever process works for you should essentially be your preferred way of reading.

Taking notes is something advised in order to keep track of what is being read as well as key points that may need some attention.

With that said, reading techniques are all effective in my opinion, but not all techniques work well for everyone.

Advantages of note taking when reading

Keeps you focused and alert

Note taking is an effective way of getting around reading material. There’s nothing like taking good notes to keep you alert.

Let’s face it, reading especially for long hours can be tiring. This is why most people don’t get through more than 3 pages of reading per day.

With effective note taking you can ensure that you stay alert because of the back and forth between the reading material and the notes.

Therefore you can use note taking as a way to counteract boredom so that you stay on task and not be easily distracted or lazy to finish a book.

Highly engaging

Note taking and note making is not only useful because of its ability to keep you focused and alert but it is also useful because it can help you be engaged.

Consuming words and information pushes your brain to the limit and makes it work hard.

Which is why you may feel overwhelmed when you spend too much time on a book. This is not a bad thing.

Everyone goes through a period when they need to take a break.

This is where notetaking can be so helpful.

You can easily let yourself rest whilst taking notes to let your brain decompress the information you just fed it. This way you won’t feel over whelmed because you’ll be unpacking information rather than consuming it.

Keeping track

If you’ve been reading books for long enough you probably know that ideas and other useful information can be found on most pages.

Sometimes it’s really easy to keep track of what you read and where you read it.

This is where note taking can help you.

You can basically form a good trail and keep all good ideas tracked so you can easily revisit them when need arise.

This will help you avoid those inconvenient times when you know you read something important but can’t figure out which page you read it on.

Organizing information

Books are written following a very specific order. Authors ensure that they fully express the key ideas they wish their readers to have.

From the introduction to the last page, every detail is organised and well placed to make the book a whole, ordered and complete body of work.

Note taking can  therefore help you keep ideas well organised.

By keeping track of what you’re reading from introduction to the last page, you basically create a trail of ideas and how they’re intended to be consumed.

Reading is an art and so is writing. Therefore it is essential to read books in order of organization.

Note taking will help you achieve this with minimal effort by keeping key concepts and ideas well organised.

Helps you keep a record of core ideas

I essentially use note taking to keep track of important information.

If you have ever read a book whilst taking notes or not, you have obviously come around certain ideas that were so important that you couldn’t read them once and move to the next paragraph.

Ideas like that are what make up the key foundational information that keeps the books concept glued together.

Note taking helps you keep a record of valuable information that you’ll more than likely need to review again.

Why people may choose not to take notes

It creates a secondary task

One of the reasons why people hate note taking whilst reading is that it creates a second task. Most people only enjoy reading books casually.

Therefore a secondary task like note-taking may seem like an inconvenience. Which is why most people like to read with no pen or paper.

They’d rather enjoy the reading experience independently and then take notes after or simply not take any notes at all.

Note taking is a great way to ensure that comprehension is reviewed. But this is not for everyone.

Preference being the key word.

May disturb the flow of reading

Reading requires attention and concentration for it be effective. Comprehension may seem like something simple but it is not.

Taking notes while reading can easily distract you from the flow of reading.

Therefore its not always an effective way of reading. But its also worth mentioning that it all comes down to preference.

Some people can keep their concentration intact even when they’re switching between reading and note taking, while it may be harder or even impossible for others.

Therefore, if you like to read and digest words in a flow like state, you probably won’t enjoy stopping every now and again to take notes.

It may make reading feel like too much work.

Makes reading in certain spaces impossible

The world now thrives on digital book’s more than physical ones. For this reason most of us prefer to read books on phone for convenience.

This convenience makes it easy to read anywhere.

Note taking basically requires you to be sitted preferably by your lonesome in order to take notes effectively.

This therefore steals your freedom of reading wherever you are. Most people can’t handle this and will often times not take any notes at all to retain their freedom of reading on a handheld device in any location without having to worry about finding a table and a chair to sit on so they can write and note take.

Can create a false sense of comprehension

When I was in university I always studied utilising note taking just to keep a record of what I had read so I could easily come back to it.

One thing I discovered about note taking is that it created a false sense of understanding with what I had read even though I had not reviewed or tested my knowledge.

This led me to sometimes failing to answer certain questions in exams because I couldn’t recall what I had written down because I hadn’t reviewed it.

When used ineffectively, note taking can be a weak tool that could give you a false sense of comprehension which is exactly what you want to avoid.

Can create scattered points

Most people don’t know how to take notes.

I say this because I spent enough time around people’s study notes in university to know that most people don’t follow a logical order.

Note taking when not done right usually results in a number of scattered points that make it very difficult to review.

It’s not always the readers fault, sometimes the complexity of the material makes it difficult to keep your finger on the writers thought process.

This then leads to a bunch of ideas written in no logical order.

Effective note taking techniques

Structure everything

Effective note taking is all about planning out well.

Structure out how you’re going to take notes for every chapter, how you’re going to mark the important paragraphs and how you’re going to create a trail to follow when reviewing your notes.

When you create Structure around your note taking it will be very easy for you to follow your plan and write out good notes that can help you.

Avoid diving straight into taking notes without sitting down first to figure out how you’re going to go about it.

Don’t note down everything /Improve selection

To be an effective note taker you need to know that not everything you read needs to be written down.

some ideas may seem key but if you keep reading you’ll usually notice that they’re simply being used as the vehicle to drive home the main point.

So, you should therefore be selective with the notes you take.

Don’t write down everything.

This is usually a rookie mistake that I saw mostly in university. People would have too many notes with little substance.

Use note taking for understanding

You should always take notes and write them using your own understanding. This will help your brain work better and make remembering what you read easy.

Take notes to figure out information that the author wants you to know.

Don’t simply write down the exact thing you read because you’re no better than a guy writing notes from the book without even reading.

Create idea maps

Idea maps are basically maps of how important  ideas and concepts connect with each other.

How you come up with idea maps is up to you because essentially they should be your own unique maps that can direct you to understanding.

Note down only when you understand

It is essential that you only note down something only when you understand it. This way you can keep track of your progress.

Simply noting everything down is not progress. All you’re essentially doing is writing what you’re reading and not writing understanding.

Final Thoughts

Taking notes when reading is a matter of preference. There are  no specific rules that say note taking should be done or not while reading.

Some prefer to take notes to keep track of the important things they come across while others prefer to read without being distracted with taking notes.

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Helpful Resources

Taking Notes While Reading – UNC Learning Center

Effective Reading and Note-taking | UNSW Current Students

Note-Taking from Reading | SkillsYouNeed

Academic Skills Essentials – Reading and Notetaking – ECU

Effective note-making – Reading and making notes – Lib Guides

Note taking from reading – University of Nottingham