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ASC Success Strategies: Methods

Two-Column

This method allows you to record important information and your reactions to that information as you are reading. Create a two-column table on a page. On the left side, note the key ideas of the text. On the right side, next to each idea, add your response. That response could include

  • details related to the key idea
  • questions that the idea raises for you
  • links between the idea and other ideas
  • personal connections to the idea
  • your evaluation of the idea

If you are using this method, make sure to record the text’s author, title, and publication information as well. This prevents confusion about which notes go with which text you read.

 

On-Text

This method involves directly writing on the text you are reading. Specifically, you underline, circle, and use the margins to write questions, paraphrase a point, or summarize a section. These markings should help you make sense of the material, engage with it, and use it in your own writing. This method is helpful because your notes are connected to the text itself. Therefore, if you are confused by something you have written in your notes, you can quickly skim the text to jog your memory. 

You can take notes on-text in both printed and electronic formats. If you are reading a PDF of a journal article, for example, use Adobe’s built-in commenting and highlighting features

Mapping

This method consists of mapping out the main ideas and details of a text. If you think best by seeing visual relationships, mapping can help you translate a linear narrative into a visual model that fits your learning style. Start the process by including the text’s title in a bubble at the center of your screen or paper. Draw lines outward from that title bubble, with each one representing a main idea. From each main idea, draw several lines to record details connected to it. Use a pen and paper or the Academic Skills Center’s Concept Mapping Tool to take notes in this manner. 

Note that you can also use a modified form of mapping on the text itself by circling each main idea and color-coding the corresponding details.

Outlining

You may be familiar with outlining as a prewriting strategy, but outlining can also be used as a note-taking strategy when reading. Here are two outlining options (among others):

  • Outline the entire text. With this option, you use the text’s section headings as the structure of your outline and record the key information found in each section. 
  • Outline the main points. With this option, you reduce the text to its main points and supporting details, rather than focusing on the overall content in each section. 

For an example outline, see Outlining a Research Article