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Independent College: Reading and Note-Taking

Resources for planning and reflecting

Reading for Research: Developing a Strategy

Reading is an essential practice for university learners. Learners may encounter information from various sources such as books and eBooks, academic papers and journal articles, government reports etc. The volume of sources can seem overwhelming, so too can the task of applying your reading and comprehension skills to a particular text.

This page will assist you in developing strategies to understand and summarise a text, while also introducing possible options for note taking, both in-class,, or while reading and researching.

Reading Methods

SQ3R is an effective reading method. Watch the video to learn more. 

SQRA: Survey/Scan, Question, Read is a similar approach and is designed to make summarising and note-taking easier. 

SQR is an approach to reading and note-taking with many variations.  Specifically, SQRA is an effective approach to capturing the fundamental parts of a text.  Once you have identified a key research source or text, apply the below tips. 

  1. Survey/Scan - Read the text quickly to get a general idea of its structure and theme, note if there is an abstract, introduction, conclusion, words in bold, keywords and terminology, dates, subtitles etc. 
  2. Question -  Write some questions from the main topics/titles, and subtitles, bold words, any dates, or names found while surveying the chapter. This helps you summarise, predict, and organise learning.
  3. Read After reading a paragraph STOP and ask yourself, what was that paragraph about (the WHO or WHAT)? Next, try writing some sentences about each paragraph to summarise the main idea or concepts. You can use words that you think are keywords from each paragraph.
  4. Answer  Answer some of the questions you asked in the Question section.

Cornell method of Note-taking

How to organize Cornell Notes









The Cornell Method can assist in effective note-taking.

Divide the page into 3 sections as represented by the image above.

Title the page, ie., Digital marketing today

You can then take notes using the spaces provided, firstly focusing on making notes and comments as you normally would in a lecture, then writing keywords to explain these notes, and finally a summary of learning or conclusions. Happy note taking! :)

Time Management - the Pomodoro Technique

How can a learner set reasonably attainable goals under time constraints?

Effective time management is a recurring theme for most learners and so any strategy to assist with this is surely welcome!

Breaking any study or research task down into smaller manageable chunks is a good strategy for success. The Pomodoro technique helps a learner do just this! Watch the below video to see a summary of this time management strategy. Visit the Pomodoro page to read about its application and uses, and download some technique sheets.

Mind mapping

Mind mapping for Summarising and Note-taking

Mind mapping is also a popular method of note-taking and summarising. It is especially effective for learners who may have a more visual preference for learning.

There are no strict rules on how to produce a mind map but largely they consist of keywords and terms, phrases, and ideas, all connected by flowing arms and lines. 

Some people choose to draw them free-hand. There are also apps (MURAL, MindMup) which allow learners to produce them online and/or produce and print a template.