The 13 Most Effective Note-Taking Methods

These are efficient note-taking methods that anyone can pick up and use to take better notes.

  • By Sander Tamm
  • Jan 20, 2023

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“Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.” Albert Einstein

When you’re first learning a new concept, you’re taking in further information that has to go through the process of memorization.

The human brain, however, is inefficient at remembering things. 

Within  24 hours  of leaving class, your brain will have forgotten more than half of what it remembered at the end of the class.

This phenomenon is described by the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve , which perfectly illustrates the need for note-taking .

Ebbinghaus forgetting curve

Compare the right-side green line with the left-side red line. 

Someone who takes notes and reviews them three times (green line) remembers nearly everything after a week. On the other hand, a person who doesn’t review their notes at all (red line) forgets everything within a week.

Don’t be the red line – make sure you’re one of the green lines instead! To do so, you’ll need to learn how to take  effective , visually interesting , and/or aesthetical notes .

To help you do so, these are the best note-taking methods:

Best Note-Taking Methods

Outline note-taking method.

Completed outline note

Best for:  Most subjects except science classes such as physics or math

Difficulty level:  Medium

The  outline method of note-taking  uses indentation to store information in a clear hierarchy. When applicable, the outline method is one of the most efficient note-taking formats as it creates meticulously well-organized notes. The method can also be used in both  deductive and inductive  order.

Outlined notes are some of the easiest to review, as it’s one of the few systems that allow you to see space relationships between topics. However, the method is not always suitable for taking notes during a live lecture, and outlining requires a clear lesson structure. 

Advantages:

  • Space relationships between topics are visible,
  • Information is recorded in a logical, hierarchical manner,
  • Outlined notes are quick and easy to review pre-exam,
  • Special notepaper & preparation not required,
  • Research on the outline method  has been positive,
  • Usable during class (slow to medium-paced lectures).

Disadvantages:

  • Unsuitable for some STEM subjects,
  • Learning materials/lectures require a clear structure,
  • Outlining notes requires intense concentration and thought.

Cornell Note-Taking Method

Best for:  Recording main concepts & forming study questions

Difficulty level:  Easy

The  Cornell note-taking method , developed over half a century ago, is a tried-and-true strategy for taking effective notes. It uses two top columns (the “cue” and “note” columns), together with a single bottom row (the summary section), to record notes. 

The method is versatile, usable for most subjects, and one of the simplest yet most effective note-taking methods. By mastering the Cornell system, you’ll always have at least one solid note-taking skill under your belt. The Cornell system is one of the most popular note-taking strategies in the world for a good reason.

  • Organized and systematic for both recording and reviewing notes
  • Time-efficient and requires little effort,
  • Taking Cornell notes is very easy to learn,
  • Suitable for most subjects (except equation-based subjects),
  • Fulfills a  natural learning cycle  within one single page,
  • Ideal for extracting major concepts and ideas.
  • Requires creating or purchasing Cornell-style pages,
  • Large quantities of Cornell notes can be challenging to organize,
  • Not great at reducing the size of notes,
  • Research on the Cornell method  is mixed.

The Cornell method is a variant of the split-page note-taking method  (also known as the two-column method). Try the split-page method if you are finding the Cornell method a bit too restrictive but you like the basic approach of cues or keywords combined with more detailed notes.

Boxing Note-Taking Method

Best for:  Digital note-taking with a stylus pen

The  boxing method of note-taking uses boxes to visually separate topics within a page. While the boxing method was designed for digital devices, it’s a technique that can be easily adapted to handwritten notes. 

Using the boxing strategy results in notes that are visually pleasing and easy to review. The method also takes full advantage of digital-only features such as lassoing, resizing, and moving notes after writing. Together with mind mapping, it’s one of the most effective note-taking strategies for visual learners.

  • Takes advantage of digital note-taking tools,
  • Great for learners with a visual learning style,
  • Aesthetically pleasing notes,
  • Notes reduce well.
  • Slightly time-intensive,
  • Not always practical for note-taking during lectures.

Charting Note-Taking Method

Best for:  Recording facts and statistics

Difficulty level:  Hard

The  charting method of note-taking , also known as “matrix note-taking,” uses charts to classify information within rows and columns. While the method is not usable for many subjects, it is a remarkable tool under the right circumstances. This method is best used with subjects with factual or statistical information that can be categorized into tables.

On the other hand, it’s not suitable for note-taking during live lectures, very detailed topics, and subjects where the space relationships between content are essential. It’s also not well-suited for subjects that have many equation-based problems.

  • A compelling method for subjects with lots of facts and statistics,
  • Easy comparisons between different topics,
  • Reduces note sizes better than any other method,
  • Charted notes are straightforward and efficient to review,
  • Very efficient for studying comparisons.
  • Unsuitable for most subjects,
  • Requires a basic understanding of the topic,
  • Very time-intensive.

Mapping Note-Taking Method

Best for:  Analyzing visual connections between key ideas and concepts

The mapping method of note-taking , also known as “concept mapping,” connects different thoughts, ideas, concepts, and facts through visualization. Both Leonardo Da Vinci’s and Albert Einstein’s notebooks reportedly contained mapping-style notes that connected drawings to words and notes.

The mapping method starts with a central topic in the middle of the page before branching into smaller subtopics, supporting topics, and more minor details. The method provides a one-of-a-kind graphical overview of lecture content that is irreplaceable for visual learners. 

Mapping is best used in content-rich college classes where the information is structured. However, taking notes in a live class with this method is very rarely possible due to its time-consuming nature.

 Advantages:

  • An excellent method for visual learning styles,
  • It gives a comprehensive overview of a large subject,
  • It helps you understand the connections between small elements within a major topic,
  • Maximizes active participation,
  • Reviewing mapped notes is very efficient.

 Disadvantages:

  • Requires a good understanding of the topic,
  • Requires strong concentration,
  • It cannot be used effectively during class,
  • It can be difficult to correctly include all relationships ,
  • Mapping is very time-consuming.

Sentence Note-Taking Method

Best for:  Quick, unstructured note-taking

Difficulty level:  Very easy

The  sentence method of note-taking uses sentences separated by lines to quickly transcribe as much information as possible from the information source. It requires quick handwriting or typing skills to be used effectively, and it’s likely the most commonly used note-taking method due to its simplicity. 

Using the sentence method results in oversized notes that are notoriously difficult to review afterward. However, the sentence method can sometimes be the only viable choice for fast-paced, unstructured lessons you’re unprepared for. It’s often a good idea to rewrite notes taken with the sentence method after class.

Try not to rely on this method when you have a choice, but keep it as a backup plan when you can’t use an alternative note-taking strategy.

  • It can be used for any subject and type of class,
  • Very easy to implement,
  • Suitable for quick note-taking during class.
  • Reviewing sentence method notes after class is difficult and time-consuming,
  • No inter- and intra- relationships between notes are visible,
  • The main points are indistinguishable from more minor details,
  • Quick handwriting or typing speed required,
  • No element of metacognitive note analysis during note-taking.

Blurting Note-Taking Method

Best for:  Studying and memorizing complex topics

Difficulty level: Medium

Unlike passively highlighting text or rereading notes, the Blurting Method is truly one of the most efficient ways to understand where you are at in your knowledge and do something about it at the same time.

The blurting method of note-taking is an  active recall  technique that can be used to help you learn and remember information. Active recall is basically a learning technique that involves testing yourself on the material that you’re trying to learn and has been shown to be a very effective way to make.

The blurting method, at its simplest, is reading a section of text or notes, then closing them and writing down as much of the information as you can remember. This makes your brain work harder to retain the information, making it really hammer the info down into your long-term memory.

  • It can help you identify the areas where you need to focus in your study time, thus making sure that the gaps in your knowledge are covered.
  • It gives you a better understanding of the material, as you are forced to put the information into your own words.
  • Recall ensures information is retained longer.
  • It’s a flexible method that can be modified to suit your needs.
  • The method can be used on any type of written learning material – but also after listening to lectures and online course videos.
  • This method is time-consuming, and some might find it tedious.
  • It does not replace note-taking during on-going lectures.
  • It is mentally taxing.
  • It is not the most efficient method for memorizing a lot of facts – use flashcards or a similar method in this case

Q/E/C Note-Taking Method

Best for: Argumentative subjects (such as history, philosophy, and literature)

The Question/Evidence/Conclusion (Q/E/C) method of note-taking is a simple but powerful method for organizing and recording information from lectures. Focused on capturing the big ideas and how they relate to each other, the method is structured around concepts that require arguing and evidence to create a clear and concise summary. Each concept is divided up into three parts: question, evidence, and conclusion.

The Q/E/C is ideally suited for most subjects in the humanities, especially ones that tend to present in an argumentative form, such as history, philosophy, and literature. It is also a very useful method to include in your toolbox for other subjects, including technical ones, where it can be suited for certain classes.

The method is also an excellent way to outline or plan for your essays, as it helps you develop a clear structure and will likely help you identify additional questions and counterarguments along the way that you may need to consider.

  • Helps you focus on the bigger picture
  • Helps you keep track of the relationship between the overall topic and the arguments/evidence
  • An excellent way to clearly record more argumentative presentations
  • Clear way of presenting arguments and counterarguments
  • Forces you to synthesize arguments and write a conclusion
  • A good fit for the humanities and non-technical subjects
  • Matches the way many lecturers present (and view the world)
  • Useful method for outlining argumentative essays
  • Less suitable for technical subjects or for concepts with more complex relationships
  • Challenging to use during fast-paced or poorly structured lectures
  • Requires concentration and reflection
  • Can be difficult to use if you don’t yet have an overall grasp of a new subject

Morse Code Note-Taking Method

Best for: Quickly absorb large volumes of course material in argumentative subjects.

Difficulty level: Hard

A fairly recent addition to the realm of note-taking methods – but one that many academics swear by – is the Morse Code note-taking method , a variant of the Q/E/C method . Not to be confused with Morse Code itself, this note-taking method uses dots and dashes to mark up course literature while you are reading it . Importantly, it enables you to keep reading while taking notes rather than pausing to jot down your notes.

Dots are used to denote the main ideas, and dashes for supporting facts, arguments, and examples. After you have finished reading the entire text, you use your notes in the margin to type up notes and then condense them into a format that is useful for further review.

  • As you do not stop reading, it is among the most efficient methods for covering larger quantities of text.
  • It helps extract the main and supporting points from a text.
  • It promotes active reading through the note-taking
  • It facilitates reading comprehension and critical thinking through the decoding and condensing stages.
  • It is not applicable to all types of reading material (in particular, material that is not structured in an argumentative academic style).
  • Very little information is captured in your notes – if you wait too long to decode your notes, you may have forgotten the context.
  • Less suitable for readers who tend to lose their focus when engaging in continuous reading (who may benefit from pausing and processing their notes paragraph by paragraph or page by page.

Flow Note-Taking Method

Best for: Understanding interrelationships between concepts at a higher level

While linear note-taking methods (such as the sentence and outline methods) have their place in your toolkit, you will want to complement these with non-linear methods that force you to actively engage with the topic at hand as a whole. Using such methods translate into a better understanding of an area and how its different component parts relate to each other. One of the main non-linear approaches that you should become familiar with is the flow method of note-taking .

It can look similar to the mapping method, but the focus of this method is on the higher-level concepts and ideas and how they relate to each other. Detailed descriptions and paraphernalia have to take a step back. The relationships are indicated using arrows and lines, in whichever way you find useful.

  • The flow method aims to have you learn during class by having you engage actively with the content.
  • Even though you are actively learning during class, you also get useful notes for revision – while the notes are not in the most useful format for revision, they tend not to be terrible
  • It’s a flexible method that suits most subjects.
  • It is a good choice for note-taking after having followed a class or after having read all material to solidify your understanding.
  • The method can be personalized to suit individuals’ needs and preferences.
  • The flow method is not well suited for topics of which you have no prior understanding, as it can be difficult to pick out what is more or less important and figure out how they relate to each other during the class.
  • While engaging mainly with the bigger picture, you risk missing important details during lectures.
  • Flow notes can easily turn out quite messy and are not ideal for revision (you can try to mitigate this by adding cue words to your notes to prompt you to describe relationships during revisions).
  • It can be difficult to find the time to actively engage with a topic during fast-paced lectures, forcing you to take detailed notes and apply the flow method after class instead.
  • Practice with the method is needed as you need to figure out how to best use it to suit your learning style.

REAP Method

Best for: Active reading to build deeper understanding of texts

The REAP method (Read, Encode, Annotate, Ponder) was developed by Marilyn Eanet and Anthony Manzo at the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 1976 as a response to what they saw as inadequate teaching methods for developing active reading. The method is designed to help students be able to understand the meaning of texts through reflecting and communicating on their content.

REAP consists of four stages:

  • Reading:  Reading the text provided to identify the ideas expressed by the author.
  • Encoding:  “Encoding” the main ideas identified in the text in your own words.
  • Annotating:  Writing “annotations” of the ideas, quotes, etc., in the text.
  • Pondering:  Reflecting on the content and writing comments or criticisms of the text, and discussing with others.

This will make you return to a text multiple times, each time from a different vantage point, and let you gradually analyze the text at a higher and higher level.

  • A scientifically proven effective method for improving reading comprehension and recall
  • Helps build capacity to engage critically with texts
  • Provides a framework for re-engaging with a text from multiple vantage points
  • Method that takes a lot of time, focus, and mental energy
  • Not suitable for note-taking during lectures
  • Less suitable for all texts (such as some college textbooks) or learning purposes (such as more detailed memorization)

Focused Question Clusters Method

Best for: Preparing for multiple-choice or other fact-based tests

Focused Question Clusters is a method, proposed by Cal Newport, to help students use their textbooks and existing lecture notes to prepare for MCQ-style exams by writing questions and then quizzing themselves. 

Focused Question Clusters involve the following main steps:

  • Identify your main topic and the relevant subtopics.
  • For each subtopic, write a series (or a “cluster”) of questions that relate to it, covering the main points. The questions should be clear and possible to answer with a few words.
  • Write a few background topics to the topic as a whole.
  • Use these questions to review (you might want to employ one of the relevant study methods for how you quiz yourself, such as active recall )

Although this kind of rapid-fire questions will help most with preparing for multiple-choice style exams, the engagement with the material will also help your brain to make the connections to get a deeper understanding of the topic.

  • An effective way to gain and retain knowledge about a topic
  • Particularly effective for MCQ-style exams
  • A useful tool for studying in groups
  • Question drafting can be divided up and the results shared as a resource between students studying together
  • Drafting the questions takes a considerable amount of time and effort
  • Not the best way to engage with more argumentative topics

Blurting Method

Best for: Quickly checking where you are at in your knowledge of a topic and do something about it at the same time

Difficulty level: Easy

The blurting method, at its simplest, is reading a section of text or notes, then closing them and writing down as much of the information as you can remember. This makes your brain work harder to retain the information, making it really hammer the info down into your long-term memory. You then compare your notes with the source and add any important information that you missed.

  • It can help you identify the areas where you need to focus in your study time.
  • It’s a flexible method that can be modified to suit your needs.
  • This method is somewhat time-consuming, and some might find it tedious.
  • It does not replace note-taking during ongoing lectures.

Sander Tamm

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The Best Note-Taking Methods for College Students & Serious Note-takers

note taking summary writing

Which is the best note-taking method for you?

There are hundreds of different ways you can take notes — but not all are created equal.

The most effective note-taking methods will help you not only understand the concepts you’re learning better, but help you easily revisit and revise the material easily when exams roll around.

But the best one for you can depend on your subject/topic, learning style, and even how your lecturer teaches.

So, here’s an overview of the best note-taking methods for college students, how to apply each, and when you should (or shouldn’t) use each one.

1. Note-taking method #1: The Outline method

The Outline Method is one of the most structured note-taking methods, and visually looks very organized.

Add your main points as bullet points, and elaborate on them underneath. For any piece of supporting information, create a nested bullet point below it. Remember to keep your points brief, preferably around one sentence per point.

The finished note should look similar to an outline.

note taking summary writing

When to use this note-taking method

The outline method is ideal for when you need to jot down information quickly, like during lectures or meetings.

With its clear structure, you can easily see the hierarchy of information, and what ideas correlate to which point.

  • Highlights key points of the topic
  • Allows you to group related points together
  • Highly structured and visually organized, making it revision friendly
  • Not great for subjects that require many diagrams, charts, or visuals

2. Note-taking method #2: The Cornell Method

The Cornell note-taking method is one of the most popular and renowned note-taking techniques, created by Prof. Walter Pauk of Cornell University in the 1950s. It’s designed to make you actively think about your notes as you go along, rather than mindlessly jotting things down.

  • All notes from the class go into the main note-taking column.
  • The smaller column on the left side is for comments, questions or hints about the actual notes.
  • After the lecture, you should take a moment to summarize the main ideas of the page in the section at the bottom which will speed up your reviewing and studying process immensely. The best part is that many people already remember and digest the information while they write a summary like this.

note taking summary writing

Cornell notes are especially effective for studying, because of how easy it is to revise from afterwards.

  • Helps you extract the main ideas
  • Writing the summary gives you a better level of understanding on the topic
  • Your notes are already logically organized and easy to skim when it comes time to revise
  • Takes a bit more effort when taking notes
  • Requires some time to set up the page

(To help you get you started, try this free Cornell notes template .)

3. Note-taking method #3: The Boxing Method

The Boxing Method is a highly visual note-taking method. It gives you an at-a-glance overview of your topic.

Each section or subtopic of your notes will live in its own labeled box

This method was originally coined by a GoodNotes user, ipadstudying. Note-taking apps like GoodNotes are especially helpful for this method, because you can draw boxes and straight lines without the help of a ruler .

note taking summary writing

We recommend using this for revision. Each page or set of notes will be for one course or topic. In each of the boxes, summarize the key points from each individual lecture (or subtopic). Label the boxes accordingly.

At the end, you have one summary page of all the key points for that course.

  • Helpful to create during revision
  • Gives you a summary of each lecture, chapter, or subtopic at a glance
  • Not a suitable method for lecture or meeting notes, when you have to be able to jot things down quickly
  • Can be a hassle if you’re drawing boxes freehand (as opposed to using a note-taking app)

4. Note-taking method #4: The Charting Method

The charting method is a great way to organize different items or concepts that all share several properties.

For example, if you were studying up on chemical elements, each row would be a different element, and columns would list out their properties, such as atomic mass, melting point, color, etc.

Here is a summary of this article in a note written with the charting note-taking method:

note taking summary writing

Charts are useful when comparing items across a certain set of characteristics.

  • Great for comparison
  • Summarize a series of items in a systematic way
  • Not effective for more linear note-taking or notes that follow a story/progression of information

5. Note-taking method #5: The Mapping Method

Another visual note-taking style is the Mapping Method.

It allows you to organize your notes by dividing them into branches, enabling you to establish relationships between the topics.

Start with writing the main topic at the top of the map. Keep dividing it into subtopics on the left and right as you go down. You can also try a mind map format, where you start in the middle and branch outward.

note taking summary writing

When to use this note-taking method:

This method is perfect for when individual points require a lot of explanation. It also works for when your notes follow a linear progression or a story.

  • Easy to create and follow ideas
  • Easily demonstrate relationships between information
  • Elaborate on points without cluttering your page
  • You may run out of space on the page if you have many branches of information

Goodnotes Tip : If you run out of space while writing in Goodnotes, just switch to a larger paper template, or lasso tool all your writing and shrink it.

6. Note-Taking Method #6: The Zettelkasten Method

Ever wanted to create your own personal wiki? 

The Zettelkasten method is designed to help capture and organize knowledge for long-term reference and development. You write one idea or learning onto one card (a "zettel"), and store it in a box (a "kasten"). You create connections between note cards with tags. In this way, you create a growing encyclopedia of knowledge over a certain topic.

These aren't the type of notes for recording lectures or meetings, but works well for accumulating knowledge on specific topics over time.

note taking summary writing

While you wouldn’t use the Zettelkasten note-taking method during a biology lecture, you could create a Zettelkasten at the beginning of your degree and continuously add your learnings about biology throughout the four years. 

  • Great way to create a homebase for your knowledge
  • Easy to review, as notes are concise
  • Can take some time to set up if you want to do it digitally

7. Note-taking Method #7: Mind Mapping

A mind map is a visual way to show information and ideas. It starts with a central topic and uses branches and sub-branches to connect related details or ideas.

Mind maps are amazing for synthesizing new ideas. Without a lot of structure, you can let your ideas flow from one to the next, and see where it takes you.

note taking summary writing

Mind maps are great to use as a revision method or brainstorming aid. Simply put down everything that comes to mind, and create connections between them.

  • Break down large ideas into smaller pieces
  • Create and discover new connections between different ideas
  • Visually presents ideas and how different elements are related
  • Not the best for recording meetings or lectures in the moment

Curious about the app featured in this article?

Goodnotes is one of the most popular note-taking apps for handwritten notes on the iPad — especially amongst students. With GoodNotes you can:

  • Take handwritten notes and search them afterwards
  • Annotate your PDF or PowerPoint lecture slides or articles
  • Easily organize your notes into notebooks, folders, and keep everything synced across your iPad, Mac, and iPhone

Get Goodnotes for free today, and start taking more effective notes !

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Think about how you take notes during class. Do you use a specific system? Do you feel that system is working for you? What could be improved? How might taking notes during a lecture, section, or seminar be different online versus in the classroom? 

Adjust how you take notes during synchronous vs. asynchronous learning (slightly) . 

First, let’s distinguish between  synchronous  and  asynchronous  instruction. Synchronous classes are live with the instructor and students together, and asynchronous instruction is material recorded by the professor for viewing by students at another time. Sometimes asynchronous instruction may include a recording of a live Zoom session with the instructor and students. 

With this distinction in mind,  here are some tips on how to take notes during both types of instruction:

Taking notes during live classes (synchronous instruction).

Taking notes when watching recorded classes (asynchronous instruction)., check in with yourself., if available, annotate lecture slides during lecture., consider writing notes by hand., review your notes., write down questions..

Below are some common and effective note-taking techniques: 

Cornell Notes

If you are looking for help with using some of the tips and techniques described above, come to the ARC’s note-taking workshop, offered several times every semester.

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 Academic Summary Skills

What is a summary?

A summary is a synthesis of the main points of an article written in your own words. It is a combination of selecting the relevant information and condensing it so that it is no more than a third of the length of the original text. A good summary illustrates that you have understood the text clearly.  ( Written by AEUK, 2022)

Summarising video

A 9:30-minute video on how to summarise effectively using t he 6-key stages of summarising. It also includes an example summary and two practice activities.

Video Download Worksheet:  This is the worksheet that accompanies the video : here

Suggested Steps in Writing Summaries

Example summary.

This uses the suggested steps in writing summaries.

Goal Setting Theory

Developed in 1968 by Edwin A Locke, goal-setting theory is based on the premise that setting specific and measurable goals is more effective than establishing unclear goals.  In his article, Locke illustrates five principles for setting clear objectives. Clarity: goals need to be clear and specific. Challenge: goals should be challenging because goals that are too easy are demotivating. Commitment: People need to be committed to the goal or they are less likely to achieve the goal. Feedback: Regular feedback should be provided to ensure the individual remains on track. Task complexity: goals should be broken down into smaller goals (Wrobleski, 2019).

Sample Notes

GST: specific & measurable goals more effective than unclear goals (Edwin A Locke, 1968).

  • Clarity: goals = clear & specif.
  • Chall: Not too easy > demot.
  • Commit: No commit., no achieve.
  • FB: provide fb reg.
  • Task complex.: Div. tasks into manageable tasks.
  • (Wrobleski, 2019).

Possible summary for Goal-Setting Theory

Drawing on the work of Edwin A Locke, Wrobleski (2019) defines goal setting theory as an idea where setting specific and measurable goals is more productive than specifying unclear goals. There are five fundamentals for setting clear aims: clarity, challenge, commitment, feedback and task complexity. 

 Summary Practice 1

  • Read the text on Data D emocratization below.  Write a summary of between 30-50 words using the above ‘suggested steps in writing summaries’.

Democratizing IT

Data democratization refers to the process of making digital information available and accessible to everyone within an organisation, regardless of their technical know-how. It means empowering employees to work with data, understand data and make faster data-informed decisions. According to Marr (2021), when staff members are given access to the organisation’s data, operations become more streamlined and efficient as those who know the business will not have to wait for data scientists to analyse the data for them. However, organisations who democratize data need to have a strong leadership in place to ensure the data is properly managed.

Data democrat. = all elec. Info. avail. to  all employees.

Employees = work & undRst data & make faster decisions.

Bus. become more efficient = no waiting for IT specialists to analyse data (Marr, 2021).

But need good leader = ensure data is managed properly.

Possible summary for Data Democratization

Data democratization means making electronic information obtainable to all employees in an organisation. According to Marr (2021), this enables operations to become more systematic as the staff do not have to wait for IT specialists to analyse the data. However, as data must be managed appropriately, good leadership is essential.  

 Summary Practice 2

  • Read the text on Behavioural Economics  below.  Write a summary of between 30-50 words using the above ‘suggested steps in writing summaries’.

Behavioural economics

Behavioural economics is a field of economics that incorporates the studies of psychology, neuroscience and sociology to better understand the decision-making processes of individuals (The Observer, 2017). This fairly new subject aims to gain a deeper understanding of why people, at times, make choices that are irrational and the thoughts and emotions that underpin the decisions made (The Guardian, 2017). Decisions, according to Samson (2018), such as whether to pay more for a certain brand, how much to spend on a holiday and which candidate to support in a public vote all involve a decision-making process and it is this mechanism that behavioural economists attempt to understand in order to predict human behaviour.

Behav, Econ. = econ. + psy, neurosci + sociol.

Aim = Better undRst DM process of ppl. (The Observer, 2017).

New sub.  -> deep undRst why ppl make rash D & thoughts & emo. underpin. dec. (The Guardian, 2017).

E.g, pay + 4 cert. brand,  how much 2 pay 4 hol. & who 2 vote for invol. DM. (Samson, 2018).

Behav. Econ. tries 2 undRst DM to predict hum. bev. 

Possible summary for Behavioural Economics

The Observer (2017) defines behavioural economics as a combination of economics and  psychological subjects used to analyse the decision-making process of individuals in order to predict human behaviour (Samson, 2017). Behavioural economists try to understand why people sometimes make poor choices and the thoughts that led to the decisions made (The Guardian, 2017). 

Writing Skills   summary writing

Here are six summary lessons based around 3 topics: general academic, business and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Each topic has two lessons: introduction to summary writing and improve your summary writing. 

Introduction to Summary Writing: 1A General Academic 

Suitable for students beginning their academic studies, this lesson supports students through the summary writing process. It includes an introductory worksheet, an information guide and five practice   tasks which are based on general academic themes. Sample notes and sample summaries are also provided .   Example  Level  ** ** *  [B1/ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

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Introduction to Summary Writing: 1B Business

Suitable for students beginning their academic studies, this lesson supports students through the summary writing process. It includes an introductory worksheet, an information guide and five practice   tasks which are based on a range of business topics. Sample notes and sample summaries are also provided .   Example  Level  ** ** *  [B1/ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Introduction to Summary Writing: 1C STEM 

Suitable for students beginning their academic studies, this lesson supports students through the summary writing process. It includes an introductory worksheet, an information guide and five practice   tasks which are based on STEM topics. Sample notes and sample summaries are also provided .   Example  Level  ** ** *  [B1/ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

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Summary lessons.

These next lessons follow on from the above introduction to summary writing.

Improve your Summary Writing: 2A General Academic

Following on from summary writing 1A, this lesson provides students with further practice on the summary writing process. It includes a review worksheet, two practice tasks which are based on general academic subjects and a peer feedback checklist.  Sample notes and sample summaries are also provided . Example  Level  *** **   [B1/ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Improve your Summary Writing: 2B Business

Following on from summary writing 1B, this lesson, this lesson provides students with further practice on the summary writing process. It includes a review worksheet, two practice tasks which are based on business topics and a peer feedback checklist. Sample notes and sample summaries are also provided . Example  Level  *** **   [B1/ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Improve your Summary Writing: 2C STEM

Following on from summary writing 1C, this lesson, this lesson provides students with further practice on the summary writing process. It includes a review worksheet, two practice tasks which are based on STEM subjects and a peer feedback checklist. Sample notes and sample summaries are also provided . Example  Level  *** * *  [B1/ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

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Academic Reading to Writing Summary

AEUK Academic Reading summaries have been specifically written for university reading tests. The texts are based around academic journals and the lesson includes key points with support and a model answer. Also includes a critical thinking worksheet.

note taking summary writing

A short 8-minute listening lecture written by AEUK on Amazon. It discusses the company, recruitment, recent criticisms of safety and Amazon’s response,  It includes a video, test questions, tapescript and PPT.   Exampl e.  Level *** ** [B2/C1]  / Video [9.10] /  MP3 / PPT link in download  / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Summary writing: the path to brexit.  .

The text discusses the background history of the EU, its three key treaties and the economics of the EU. It then highlights the dissatisfaction of EU policy in the UK that led to the referendum and then explores the future policies of leaving the EU.The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers. ( Example )   Level *** ** [ B2/C1] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: The path to Brexit.

The text discusses the background history of the EU, its three key treaties and the economics of the EU. It then highlights the dissatisfaction of EU policy in the UK that led to the referendum and then explores the future policies of leaving the EU. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary . ( Example ).  Level *** ** [ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Summary Writing: CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

The text discusses the popularity of CSR and its historical evolution from the 1950s. It highlights the key values associated with effective CSR policies and examines the key challenges of implementing it. Finally, the author points out that there are still a number of areas that need to be addressed regarding transparency and better legislation . The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.   ( Example ) .  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility

The text discusses the popularity of CSR and its historical evolution from the 1950s. It highlights the key values associated with effective CSR policies and examines the key challenges of implementing it. Finally, the author points out that there are still a number of areas that need to be addressed regarding transparency and better legislation. The reading test worksheet tests   headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1]  TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Circular Economy. Reading & Summary Writing Lesson 

The text provides an overview of both the linear and circular economy. It discusses the positive aspects of a circular economy and how economies can change to this new model. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: The Circular Economy 

The text provides an overview of both the linear and circular economy. It discusses the positive aspects of a circular economy and how economies can change to this new model.The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

TED Talk: A short listening lecture on what is the circular economy, how humans are the stewards of the earth and have a responsibility to protect it and examples of how the circular economy works. Exampl e.  Level *** ** [B2/C1]  / Video [13.13] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Covid-19 pandemic, covid-19: reading & summary writing lesson.

The text provides an explanation of COVID-19, its possible origins, the global transmission of the virus, global responses and future control. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers . Example   Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: COVID-19 Pandemic 

The text provides an explanation of COVID-19, its possible origins, the global transmission of the virus, global responses and future control. The reading test worksheet includes:  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary. Example     Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

COVID-19 – Lecture Listening Test

This is a lecture on defining COVID-19, how COVID-19 affects the body, typical symptoms, why some people get sick and others don’t, COVID-19 mutations and recent vaccines. It includes a video, test questions and PPT. Worksheet Example   Level *** ** [B2/C1]   PPT link  /  Video   [12.14] / MP3 / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

COVID-19 Pandemic PDF Book

Amazing value – five lessons in one book. introduction (internet research), reading test, summary writing, 1 x lecture listening & a seminar / example /   webpage link /, economic inequality, economic inequality: summary  reading & writing lesson.

The text discusses what is economic inequality and how it is measured. It also discusses the unfairness of wealth distribution between the rich and the poor and suggests possible solutions to address the situation. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example) Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Economic Inequality.

The text defines economic inequality. It discuses differences in income distribution between the rich and poor, it highlights how inequality is measured and offers a range of solutions to address income inequality. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Economic Inequality- Lecture Listening Lesson

This is a lecture on what is economic inequality, how is wealth distributed, how the past has affected the present and the current debate. it includes a video, test questions and ppt ( example ).   level *** ** [b2/c1] / ppt link in download   /   video   [10.00] teacher membership / institutional membership, economic inequality lesson pdf book, amazing value – five lessons in one book. introduction, definition, reading test & summary writing, 1 x lecture listening, [extra reading text] & seminar / example.

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Ethical Consumerism

Ethical  consumerism : reading & summary writing lesson.

The text provides a clear definition of ethical consumerism, discusses what is and what isn’t ethical consumerism and summarises the future of ethical consumption. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.   Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Ethical Consumerism 

The text provides a clear definition of ethical consumerism, discusses what is and what isn’t ethical consumerism and summarises the future of ethical consumption. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary. More reading tests     Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Ethical consumerism 

This is a lecture on defining  ethical consumerism, the associated problems with consumers and the positive advances in the ethical consumerism movement. It includes a video, test questions and PPT. More listening tests.   Level *** ** [B2/C1] PPT /  Video   [09.01] / MP3 /  TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

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Financial Crisis

Summary writing: the causes of the 2008 financial crisis.

The text discusses the background history of the financial crash through focusing on prime and sub-prime mortgage lending. It then explores the key reasons behind the profitable trading systems of that time, highlighting the collapse and then the following banking regulations that were introduced in 2009/2010. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example ) .  Level *** **  [ B2/C1 ]  TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: The causes of the 2008 Financial Crisis

The text discusses the background history of the financial crash through focusing on prime and sub-prime mortgage lending. It then explores the key reasons behind the profitable trading systems of that time, highlighting the collapse and then the following banking regulations that were introduced in 2009/2010. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary . ( Example ) .  Level *** * * [ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

The Gig Economy

Summary writing: the gig economy.

The text discusses the rise of the gig economy and makes an attempt to define exactly what it is. It then highlights key gig companies investigating the importance and limitations of this new contemporary employment platform. Finally, it puts forward the future challenges of the gig economy for employees, employers and society . The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example ) . Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: The Gig Economy  

The text discusses the rise of the gig economy and makes an attempt to define exactly what it is. It then highlights key gig companies investigating the importance and limitations of this new contemporary employment platform. Finally, it puts forward the future challenges of the gig economy for employees, employers and society. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary . ( Example )   Level *** ** [ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

The Gig Economy – AEUK Test

This is a lecture on the defining the Gig Economy and discussing the positives and negatives of three Gig Economies (AirBnB, Uber and Task Rabbit). It includes a video, test questions and PPT (see example ).   Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]  / PPT link in download /   Video   [ 12.14] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Gig Economy Lesson PDF Book

Amazing value – six lessons in one book. introduction, definition, reading test, summary writing, lecture listening & seminar  more information, summary writing: globalisation: international trade..

The text defines the key points associated with globalisation. It discusses the disparity of progression of trade between countries and highlights the integration of in-ward and out- ward looking policies. It finally points out that three key areas of international globalisation are imperative for the economic growth of a country. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example )  Level ***** [ B1/B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Globalisation: International Trade.

The text defines the key points associated with globalisation. It discusses the disparity of progression of trade between countries and highlights the integration of in-ward and out- ward looking policies. It finally points out that three key areas of international globalisation are imperative for the economic growth of a country. The reading test worksheet tests headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary. ( Example )   Level *** ** [ B1/B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Globalisation: economic, political, & cultural relationships   –   by Edeos

This lecture discusses the key elements to the rise of globalisation. It focuses on the inter-connected relationships of politics, culture and the economy. It includes a lot of important vocabulary. The worksheet is based on note-taking followed by a gap-fill summary. ( E xample) . Level: *** ** [B2/C1]  /   Video [8.10]  / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Understanding happiness: Reading & Summary Writing Lesson 

The text discusses the three dimensions of happiness, happiness at home and work and the recent research into what are the important features of happiness. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers .  (  Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Understanding happiness 

The text discusses the three dimensions of happiness, happiness at home and work and the recent research into what are the important features of happiness. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

  What makes a good life? – Robert Waldinger

TED TALK: Lessons from the longest study on happiness by Harvard. It discusses the success of the study and what the findings were. [ Example]   Level: ** ** * [B2/C1]  / Download PPT.  / Video [12:46]   /  TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Happiness Lesson PDF Book  

Amazing value – six lessons in one book. introduction, definitions, questionnaire, reading test & summary writing, 1 x lecture listening & seminar / example /   webpage link, agenda setting theory: reading & summary writing lesson .

Mass communication: The text provides an overview of agenda setting in the media. It discusses its purpose, impact and relevancy in contemporary society. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers .  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test : Mass Communication: Agenda Setting Theory 

The text provides an overview of agenda setting in the media. It discusses its purpose, impact and relevancy in contemporary society. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

note taking summary writing

A 10-minute lecture on Gatekeeping Theory. The lecture provides a basic historical background, followed by key factors associated with the theory and finally discusses its role in the 21st century . Exampl e.  Level *** ** [B2/C1]  / Video [10.19] / MP3 /   PPT link in Download / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Mergers and acquisitions, reading & writing argument essay [mergers & acquisitions].

Topic: Mergers & Acquisitions . Two short texts (included) – students read the texts, make notes of key arguments ,  and write a 400-600 word essay using in-text referencing and paraphrasing. Lesson includes teacher notes, outline & a model essay [webpage] .   Example  Level **** * [ B2/C1] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Noise Pollution:  Reading & Summary Writing Lesson

The text discusses what noise pollution is and how it has recently been recognised as harmful to health. The text explores recent empirical evidence into the detrimental effects of noise pollution and presents the W.H.O (2018) guidelines for reducing urban noise.The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers .  Example. Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Noise Pollution – the under-estimated threat to health

The text discusses what noise pollution is and how it has recently been recognised as harmful to health. The text explores recent empirical evidence into the  detrimental  effects of noise pollution and presents the W.H.O (2018) guidelines for reducing urban noise. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Why Noise is bad for your health and what you can do about it.   – Mathias Basner

TED TALK: This lecture discusses the rise in environmental noise and its psychological and physical effects. It proposes a number of possible solutions to control and reduce noise. Level: ** *** [B1/B2/C1]  /   Video [09:58] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Noise Pollution Lesson PDF Book

Amazing value – five lessons in one book. introduction, definition, reading test, summary writing, lecture listening & seminar   more information, contemporary office design: reading & summary writing lesson .

The text discusses the evolution of open plan office space, important considerations in office planning, the drawbacks associated with open plan and possible solutions. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Contemporary Office Design 

The text discusses the evolution of open plan office space, important considerations in office planning, the drawbacks associated with open plan and possible solutions.The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

TED TALK: Why work doesn’t happen at work – Jason Fried

TED TALK: the problems with working in an office environment and highlights two main reasons and three possible improvement solutions. Example.   Level: ** *** [B1/B2/C1]  /   Video [15:21]  / Download PPT.  & adapted PPT Video /  MEMBERSHIP

Phone addiction

Mobile phone addiction: reading & summary writing lesson .

The text discusses the rise in mobile phone use, the factors that lead to addiction and implications for the future. Students take notes on key ideas and write a summary of 200-250 words. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Mobile Phone Addiction 

The text discusses the rise in mobile phone use, the factors that lead to addiction and implications for the future. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Mobile Phone Addiction [TED Talk]  by R. Sleight 

This lecture discusses the rise in smartphone use, associated data in terms of user usage, and five insights to control addictive tendencies. ( Example) . Level: *** ** [B1/B2/C1]  /   Video [11:48] / MP3 / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Academic Plagiarism: Summary  Reading & Writing Lesson

The text discusses what academic plagiarism is, what custom essay writing services are and why university students use them. It highlights the key problems associated with using these sites and offers possible solutions to prevent students from using them. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers . Example. Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Academic Plagiarism – the use of custom essay writing services / writing mills

The text discusses what academic plagiarism is, what custom essay writing services are and why university students use them. It highlights the key problems associated with using these sites and offers possible solutions to prevent students from using them. The reading test worksheet tests headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.   ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Academic Plagiarism- Lecture Listening Lesson (same text as reading)

This lecture focuses on academic plagiarism, what are custom essay writing services and the associated problems and solutions. it includes a video, test questions, tapescript and ppt ( example ).   it is exactly the same text as the reading lesson. level *** ** [b2/c1] / ppt link in download   /   video   [12.00]   / teacher membership / institutional membership, why are some countries poor reading & summary writing lesson .

The text discusses how wealth is measured, how governments and institutions influence wealth, the importance of international trade and a range of possible solutions. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers .  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test:  Why  are some countries poor? 

The text discusses how wealth is measured, how governments and institutions influence wealth, the importance of international trade and a range of possible solutions. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

  Why some countries are poor and others are rich   – The School of Life

A really good lecture on the three key elements of why some countries are poor. It discusses how corruption of institutions, culture and geographical features all play a significant role in poverty. The worksheet is based on note-taking followed by a gap-fill summary. Example. Level: ** ** * [B2/C1]  /   Video [8.47]   / MP3 / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Tax Evasion

Tax e vasion: reading & summary writing lesson.

This reading text is about tax evasion and tax avoidance. The writer discusses the methods some MNCs and rich individuals use to reduce or avoid paying tax and puts forward some suggestions to mitigate this issue. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers . .  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: Tax evasion & tax avoidance

This reading text is about tax evasion and tax avoidance. The writer discusses the methods some multinational corporations (MNCs) and rich individuals use to reduce or avoid paying tax and puts forward some suggestions to mitigate this issue. The reading test worksheet includes:  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

note taking summary writing

TED Talk: In this short (12 minute) lecture, the speaker explains how MNCs use the ‘double Irish Dutch sandwich’ to significantly reduce their tax liabilities. He also explains why many corporations have left their home countries and have set up in London instead. The listening test consists of ten comprehension questions, six critical thinking questions and an answer key . Exampl e.  Level *** ** [B2/C1]  / Video [12.27] / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Video Games:  Reading & Summary Writing Lesson

The text discusses three serious health issues connected to playing video games. The text uses eight key sources to highlight gaming to be a future health concern . The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers. Example. Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: The impact of video games on health.

The text discusses three serious health issues connected to playing video games. The text uses eight key sources to highlight gaming to be a future health concern. The reading test worksheet tests  headings / T,F,NG / open answers / gap fill / information tables / reference words / vocabulary.  (see Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Your Brain on Video Games – Daphne Bavelier

TED TALK: This TED talk discusses how action-packed shooter games can be used as educational and rehabilitation tools. It provides clear examples of research and an analysis of the brain. Power Point. (Example) . Level: *** ** [B2/C1]  /   Video [17:51]  / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Video Games Lesson PDF Book

Amazing value – five lessons in one book. introduction, definition, reading test, summary writing, lecture listening & seminar. example . .

Topic: The World is Going to University (The Economist, 2015) . Two page text (Download from the Economist) – students read text, make notes of key ideas, relevant support & write a 250 word summary.  Then write a 150-word critical response. Lesson includes a plan, outline, main points & support, a model summary and model response [webpage] .     Example  Level  **** *  [ B2/C1]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

AEUK does not own the rights to the article: Text Download

The 4th Industrial Revolution

The 4th industrial revolution ( industry 4.0) : reading & summary writing lesson.

The text provides an overview of the 4th industrial revolution (industry 4.0). It discusses the previous industrial revolutions and the opportunities and challenges of industry 4.0. The summary writing task consists of a note-taking worksheet, a summary writing task, critical thinking questions, sample notes, a sample summary and sample critical thinking answers .  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ] TEACHER MEMBERSHIP  / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

Reading Test: The 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)

The text provides an overview of the 4th industrial revolution (industry 4.0). It discusses the previous industrial revolutions and the opportunities and challenges of industry 4.0. The reading test includes: headings / T,F,NG / open answers / reference words / vocabulary / paraphrasing.  ( Example )  Level *** ** [ B2/C1 ]   TEACHER MEMBERSHIP   /   INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

What is the  Fourth Industrial Revolution? –  Graeme Codrington

This lecture briefly highlights how the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Industrial Revolutions connect to the 4th Industrial revolution. It clearly explains what is and what isn’t the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The worksheet is based on note-taking followed by a gap-fill summary. Example. Level: ** ** * [B2/C1]  /   Video [10.39] / MP3 / TEACHER MEMBERSHIP / INSTITUTIONAL MEMBERSHIP

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5x Reading Test PDF Book

  • Reading & Summary Book x 5
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Learning Center

Effective Note-Taking in Class

Do you sometimes struggle to determine what to write down during lectures? Have you ever found yourself wishing you could take better or more effective notes? Whether you are sitting in a lecture hall or watching a lecture online, note-taking in class can be intimidating, but with a few strategic practices, anyone can take clear, effective notes. This handout will discuss the importance of note-taking, qualities of good notes, and tips for becoming a better note-taker.

Why good notes matter

In-class benefits.

Taking good notes in class is an important part of academic success in college. Actively taking notes during class can help you focus and better understand main concepts. In many classes, you may be asked to watch an instructional video before a class discussion. Good note-taking will improve your active listening, comprehension of material, and retention. Taking notes on both synchronous and asynchronous material will help you better remember what you hear and see.

Post-class benefits

After class, good notes are crucial for reviewing and studying class material so that you better understand it and can prepare appropriately for exams. Efficient and concise notes can save you time, energy, and confusion that often results from trying to make sense of disorganized, overwhelming, insufficient, or wordy notes. When watching a video, taking good notes can save you from the hassle of pausing, rewinding, and rewatching large chunks of a lecture. Good notes can provide a great resource for creating outlines and studying.

How to take good notes in class

There’s a lot going on during class, so you may not be able to capture every main concept perfectly, and that’s okay. Part of good note-taking may include going back to your notes after class (ideally within a day or two) to check for clarity and fill in any missing pieces. In fact, doing so can help you better organize your thoughts and to determine what’s most important. With that in mind, it’s important to have good source material.

Preparing to take good notes in class

The first step to taking good notes in class is to come to class prepared. Here are some steps you can take to improve your note-taking before class even begins:

  • Preview your text or reading assignments prior to lecture. Previewing allows you to identify main ideas and concepts that will most likely be discussed during the lecture.
  • Look at your course syllabus so that you know the topic/focus of the class and what’s going to be important to focus on.
  • Briefly review notes from previous class sessions to help you situate the new ideas you’ll learn in this class.
  • Keep organized to help you find information more easily later. Title your page with the class name and date. Keep separate notebook sections or notebooks for each class and keep all notes for each class together in one space, in chronological order.

Note-taking during class

Now that you are prepared and organized, what can you do to take good notes while listening to a lecture in class? Here are some practical steps you can try to improve your in-class note-taking:

  • If you are seeking conceptual information, focus on the main points the professor makes, rather than copying down the entire presentation or every word the professor says. Remember, if you review your notes after class, you can always fill in any gaps or define words or concepts you didn’t catch in class.
  • If you are learning factual information, transcribing most of the lecture verbatim can help with recall for short-answer test questions, but only if you study these notes within 24 hours.
  • Record questions and thoughts you have or content that is confusing to you that you want to follow-up on later or ask your professor about.
  • Jot down keywords, dates, names, etc. that you can then go back and define or explain later.
  • Take visually clear, concise, organized, and structured notes so that they are easy to read and make sense to you later. See different formats of notes below for ideas.
  • If you want your notes to be concise and brief, use abbreviations and symbols. Write in bullets and phrases instead of complete sentences. This will help your mind and hand to stay fresh during class and will help you access things easier and quicker after class. It will also help you focus on the main concepts.
  • Be consistent with your structure. Pick a format that works for you and stick with it so that your notes are structured the same way each day.
  • For online lectures, follow the above steps to help you effectively manage your study time. Once you’ve watched the lecture in its entirety, use the rewind feature to plug in any major gaps in your notes. Take notes of the timestamps of any parts of the lecture you want to revisit later.

Determining what’s important enough to write down

You may be asking yourself how you can identify the main points of a lecture. Here are some tips for recognizing the most important points in a lecture:

  • Introductory remarks often include summaries of overviews of main points.
  • Listen for signal words/phrases like, “There are four main…” or “To sum up…” or “A major reason why…”
  • Repeated words or concepts are often important.
  • Non-verbal cues like pointing, gestures, or a vocal emphasis on certain words, etc. can indicate important points.
  • Final remarks often provide a summary of the important points of the lecture.
  • Consider watching online lectures in real time. Watching the lecture for the first time without pausing or rewinding can help force you to focus on what’s important enough to write down.

Different formats for notes

There is no right format to use when taking notes. Rather, there are many different structures and styles that can be used. What’s important is that you find a method that works for you and encourages the use of good note-taking qualities and stick with it. Here are a few types of formats that you may want to experiment with:

1. Cornell Notes: This style includes sections for the date, essential question, topic, notes, questions, and a summary. Check out this link  for more explanation.

2. Outline: An outline organizes the lecture by main points, allowing room for examples and details.

3. Flowchart/concept map: A visual representation of notes is good for content that has an order or steps involved. See more about concept mapping here .

4. Charting Method : A way to organize notes from lectures with a substantial amount of facts through dividing key topics into columns and recording facts underneath.

5. Sentence Method : One of the simplest forms of note taking, helpful for disseminating which information from a lecture is important by quickly covering details and information.

Consider…what’s the best strategy for you: handwritten, digital, or both?

Taking notes in a way to fully understand all information presented conceptually and factually may differ between students. For instance, working memory, or the ability to process and manipulate information in-the-moment, is often involved in transcribing lecture notes, which is best done digitally; but there are individual differences in working memory processes that may affect which method works best for you. Research suggests that handwriting notes can help us learn and remember conceptual items better than digital notes. However, there are some pros to typing notes on a computer as well, including speed and storage. Consider these differences before deciding what is best for you.

Follow up after class

Part of good note-taking includes revisiting your notes a day or so after class. During this time, check for clarity, fill in definitions of key terms, organize, and figure out any concepts you may have missed or not fully understood in class. Figure out what may be missing and what you may need to add or even ask about. If your lecture is recorded, you may be able to take advantage of the captions to review.

Many times, even after taking good notes, you will need to utilize other resources in order to review, solidify, question, and follow-up with the class. Don’t forget to use the resources available to you, which can only enhance your note-taking. These resources include:

  • Office Hours : Make an appointment with your professor or TA to ask questions about concepts in class that confused you.
  • Academic Coaching : Make an appointment with an Academic Coach at the Learning Center to discuss your note-taking one-on-one, brainstorm other strategies, and discuss how to use your notes to study better.
  • Learning Center resources : The Learning Center has many other handouts about related topics, like studying and making the most of lectures. Check out some of these handouts and videos to get ideas to improve other areas of your academics.
  • Reviewing your notes : Write a summary of your notes in your own words, write questions about your notes, fill in areas, or chunk them into categories or sections.
  • Self-testing : Use your notes to make a study guide and self-test to prepare for exams.

Works consulted

“The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” Mueller, P., and Oppenheimer, D. Psychological Science 25(6), April 2014.

“Note-taking With Computers: Exploring Alternative Strategies for Improved Recall.” Bui, D.C., Myerson, J., and Hale, S. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(299-309), 2013.

“How To Take Study Notes: 5 Effective Note Taking Methods.” Oxford Learning. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordlearning.com/5-effective-note-taking-methods/

“Preparing for Taking Notes.” The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from http://tutorials.istudy.psu.edu/notetaking/notetaking2.html

“Listening Note Taking Strategies.” UNSW Sydney. Retrieved from https://student.unsw.edu.au/note-taking-skills

“Note Taking and In-Class Skills.” Virginia Tech University. Retrieved from https://www.ucc.vt.edu/academic_support/study_skills_information/note_taking_and_in-class_skills.html

“Lecture Note Taking.” College of Saint Benedict, Saint John’s University. Retrieved from https://www.csbsju.edu/academic-advising/study-skills-guide/lecture-note-taking

“Note Taking 101.” Oregon State University. Retrieved from http://success.oregonstate.edu/learning/note-taking-tips

“Note Taking. Why Should I Take Notes in Class?” Willamette University. Retrieved from http://willamette.edu/offices/lcenter/resources/study_strategies/notes.html

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8 Note-taking Skills

The capacity to take and organise notes during lessons, for research and assessments, and for exam preparation is a key academic writing skill.

This chapter will cover why, when, where, what, and how to take notes.

No student has ever reached the end of a term or semester and said “gee, I’m really glad I didn’t bother taking any notes”. Note-taking is a key strategy for organising information, ideas, and what you have learned in a chronological and systematic way that can be reviewed later. Humans are not physically or neurologically wired to remember vast amounts of information long-term (unless of course you are one of the extremely rare individuals with an eidetic memory). Also, the more senses you actively use while learning, the more likely you are to remember the information, therefore, writing (or typing) engages another part of your mind.

The short answer is ALWAYS . Every lesson, lecture, library session; every time you engage in a learning activity. The fact is, you won’t know exactly what you’ll need until further down the track and it’s too late when you’ve arrived at the end of the study period and you realise that you haven’t captured enough information to refresh your memory before the big exam or assessment is due. Playing catch-up can be very stressful.

Part of good note-taking is making your notes accessible. Design specific files on your computer or device desktop or have designated partitions in a notebook. Divide your notes into weekly lectures, tutorials, assessment research, further reading. For example, if you have an assessment that involves the weekly readings or materials from weeks 1-5 of the term, then you should know exactly where to locate those materials on your device or in your notebook. It sounds like common sense, but you might be surprised how many students quickly develop poor organisation of their notes.

Important points or key ideas will generally be repeated by your teacher. They will show up on power points or in readings. Use your teachers’ speech and body language cues to identify when a point is being stressed. It is physically impossible to type or write every word that a teacher says because on average they speak about 125 words a minute. That is why it is important that you identify the key points and record them.

There is no one correct method to record notes. There is only the right method for you. Choose something that works for you and develop consistency. However, here are three popular methods:

Cornell Method

Image of notepad divided into three portions: notes made on key points, questions and comments, and summary.

In the Cornell Method the page is quickly divided into a 30:70% split. This can be done prior to class or as the class gets underway.

At the top (Title section) record the date, course/subject, and teacher/lecturer.

To the right, record the key information from the lesson or lecture. Remember to watch and listen for cues from the teacher and/or power point.

The left-hand side and summary section are used after class to help commit the information to memory and to review the lesson prior to next class.

Writing questions in the left-hand column helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen memory. Also, the writing of questions sets up a perfect stage for exam-studying later [1] .

Summarising the class notes into your own words will create a quick reference guide for exams and help you retain valuable knowledge.

As you can see, the right-hand column has the key content as presented by the teacher/lecturer (made in dot-point form). The left-hand column has your thoughts and reactions to these ideas. Once you have had a chance to review the content and how it fits together, the summary at the bottom shows that you have mentally digested the key content and can put it accurately into your own words – a very powerful learning tool.

note taking summary writing

Also known as concept mapping, this technique creates a visual representation of information and ideas in an organised way. It is a great way of making connections between concepts and demonstrating intertextuality and contextual relationships. It can be very helpful when trying to analyse or break down larger concepts into key features and supporting elements. Watch this quick video to learn more:

note taking summary writing

The charting method provides a systematic overview of your notes. The page is split into rows and columns (a table), and labelled. While this method requires some additional preparation time before your lesson, consider making up a simple word document that can be edited and adapted for your purposes. You might find it saves time during class as you can quickly categorise information as you hear or see it. It also transforms into a quick reference guide when it is time to study for your exams.

The charting method is also very useful for synthesizing large amounts of information that is compared across different sources (e.g., topics, theories, readings, approaches, experts). Your job at the start is to determine the best categories to compare and contrast the sources (see blue-green words in diagram).

note taking summary writing

  • Cornell University: Learning Strategies Center. (2019). The Cornell note-taking system. http://lsc.cornell.edu/notes.html ↵

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How To Take Smart Notes: 10 Principles to Revolutionize Your Note-Taking and Writing

  • Posted in Book summary , Books , Building a Second Brain , Creativity , Education , Note-taking , Organizing , Productivity , Workflow , Writing
  • On February 4, 2020
  • BY Tiago Forte
  • Last modified
  • April 17, 2022

Estimated reading time: 28 minutes

I long ago stopped reading books on note-taking.

They were always too vague and boring, full of platitudes that had little to do with the world outside academia.

I especially avoided “how-to” style books on the subject.

They would often list dozens of tips and tricks that had little to do with each other. There was never an overarching system for turning notes into concrete results.

But recently I picked up How To Take Smart Notes (affiliate link) by Sönke Ahrens . Ahrens is a Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at the University of Duisburg-Essen and also coaches students, academics, and professionals with a focus on time management, decision-making, and personal growth.

It is by far the most impactful and profound book I’ve ever read on the subject. I was astounded to encounter in its pages (with uncanny similarity) many of the same principles I had discovered over 10 years of personal experience.

This book is so full of insights that it broke my usual approach to summarizing books.

My approach is based on the assumption that most books are a few morsels of real insight wrapped in layers and layers of fluff. As I read, I systematically unravel those layers of fluff and extract only those insights, like a chemist distilling only the purest compound.

But this book is not written in the usual way. It is written using an external thinking system, which I call a Second Brain .

The evidence is clear: Instead of squeezing as many pages as possible out of one idea, How To Take Smart Notes squeezes as many ideas as possible onto every page. Every paragraph has a point, and I struggled to leave anything out of this summary.

By identifying the principles that stand the test of time despite huge changes in the underlying technology, we can better understand the essential nature of the creative process. We can focus our efforts on mastering the art of creative note-taking, producing more insightful writing, and fulfilling our full potential.

In this article, I’ll summarize the 10 most important principles for taking “smart” notes according to Ahrens. You can also find a detailed, step-by-step description of the method at the end.

What the book is about

How To Take Smart Notes is a book on note-taking for students, academics, and non-fiction writers.

It promises to help readers adopt “a reliable and simple external structure to think in that compensates for the limitations of our brains.” By adopting such a system, Ahrens promises that we will be able to “efficiently turn our thoughts and discoveries into convincing written pieces and build up a treasure of smart and interconnected notes along the way.”

While producing published written works is the end goal, is it not the only goal. Ahrens argues convincingly that turning one’s thoughts into writing isn’t just useful for writers but for anyone who wants to improve their thinking and learning in general.

By focusing on writing, Ahrens is able to speak in concrete terms about a specific creative process while simultaneously drawing universal conclusions. Instead of notes becoming a “graveyard for thoughts,” they can become a life-long pool of rich and interconnected ideas we can draw on no matter where our interests lead us.

Luhmann’s slip-box

Ahrens’ approach to note-taking was inspired by the 20th-century German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998). Luhmann was a prolific note-taker, writer, and academic. Early in his academic career, Luhmann realized that a note was only as valuable as its context – its network of associations, relationships, and connections to other information. 

note taking summary writing

He developed a simple system based on paper index cards, which he called his “slip-box” (or zettelkasten in German). It was designed to connect any given note to as many different potentially relevant contexts as possible. 

Luhmann rejected alphabetical categorization of his notes, along with fixed categories like the Dewey Decimal System. He intended his notes not just for a single project or book but for a lifetime of reading and researching. He designed his slip-box as a research database made up of index cards ( zettel ) that were “thematically unlimited” and could be infinitely extended in any direction.

note taking summary writing

  • Luhmann wrote down interesting or potentially useful ideas he encountered in his reading on uniformly sized index cards
  • He wrote only on one side of each card to eliminate the need to flip them over, and he limited himself to one idea per card so they could be referenced individually
  • Each new index card received a sequential number, starting at 1. When a new source was added to that topic, or he found something to supplement it, he would add new index cards with letters as suffixes (1a, 1b, 1c, etc.)
  • These branching connections were marked in red as close as possible to the point where the branch began
  • Any of these branches could also have their own branches. The card for fellow German sociologist Jürgen Habermas, for example, was labeled 21/3d26g53
  • As he read, he would create new cards, update or add comments to existing ones, create new branches from existing cards, and create new links between cards on different “strands”

This diagram shows how subtopics branched off from main topics:

note taking summary writing

It also led to a meaningful topography within the system: Topics that had been extensively explored had long reference numbers, making their length informative on its own. There is no hierarchy in the zettelkasten, which means it can grow internally without any preconceived scheme. By creating notes as a decentralized network instead of a hierarchical tree, Luhmann anticipated hypertext and URLs.

Over his 30-year career, Luhmann published 58 books and hundreds of articles on the way to completing his two-volume masterwork, The Society of Society (1997). It presented a radical new theory that not only changed sociology but also provoked heated discussions in philosophy, education, political theory, and psychology. 

For years, the importance of Luhmann’s slip-box was underestimated. As early as 1985, he would regularly point to it as the source of his amazing productivity: “I, of course, do not think everything by myself. It happens mainly within the slip-box” (Luhmann, Baecker, and Stanitzek 1987, 142). Until recently, no one believed that such a simple system could produce such prolific output. We are so used to the idea that great outcomes require great (and complicated) efforts.

But Luhmann often remarked that he never forced himself to do anything he didn’t feel like doing: “I only do what is easy. I only write when I immediately know how to do it. If I falter for a moment, I put the matter aside and do something else” (Luhmann et al., 1987, 154f).

Wouldn’t it make sense that such output over so many years would be possible because it was simple and easy, not in spite of it? Upon his death, Luhmann’s slip-box contained 90,000 notes. This may seem like a staggering number until you realize that it amounts to only six notes per day.

Let’s look deeper at the main principles that Luhmann used in his work, which Ahrens has adapted to the modern age. The explosion of technology and connectivity has inundated us with an overabundance of information. These principles go a long way toward reestablishing the boundaries and constraints that creativity needs to thrive. 

Principle #1: Writing is not the outcome of thinking; it is the medium in which thinking takes place

Writing doesn’t begin when we sit down to put one paragraph after another on the screen or page. It begins much, much earlier, as we take notes on the articles or books we read, the podcasts or audiobooks we listen to, and the interesting conversations and life experiences we have. 

These notes build up as a byproduct of the reading we’re already doing anyway. Even if you don’t aim to develop a grand theory, you need a way to organize your thoughts and keep track of the information you consume. 

If you want to learn and remember something long-term, you have to write it down. If you want to understand an idea, you have to translate it into your own words. If we have to do this writing anyway, why not use it to build up resources for future publications? 

Writing is not only for proclaiming fully formed opinions, but for developing opinions worth sharing in the first place. 

Writing works well in improving one’s thinking because it forces you to engage with what you’re reading on a deeper level. Just because you read more doesn’t automatically mean you have more or better ideas. It’s Iike learning to swim – you have to learn by doing it, not by merely reading about it.

The challenge of writing as well as learning is therefore not so much to learn, but to understand, as you will already have learned what you understand. When you truly understand something, it is anchored to a latticework of related ideas and meanings, which makes it far easier to remember.

For example, you could memorize the fact that arteries are red and veins are blue. But it is only when you understand why – that arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body, while veins carry blood low in oxygen back to the heart – that that fact has any value. And once we make this meaningful connection between ideas, it’s hard not to remember it.

The problem is that the meaning of something is not always obvious. It requires elaboration – we need to copy, translate, re-write, compare, contrast, and describe a new idea in our own terms. We have to view the idea from multiple perspectives and answer questions such as “How does this fact fit with others I already know?” and “How can this phenomenon be explained by that theory?” or “How does this argument compare to that one?”

Completing these tasks is exceedingly difficult inside the confines of our heads. We need an external medium in which to perform this elaboration, and writing is the most effective and convenient one ever invented. 

Principle #2: Do your work as if writing is the only thing that matters

The second principle extends the previous one even further: Do you work as if writing is the only thing that matters.

In academia and science, virtually all research is aimed at eventual publication Ahrens notes that “there is no such thing as private knowledge in academia. An idea kept private is as good as one you never had.”

The purpose of research is to produce public knowledge that can be scrutinized and tested. For that to happen, it has to be written down. And once it is, what the author meant doesn’t matter – only the actual words written on the page matter.

This principle requires us to expand our definition of “publication” beyond the usual narrow sense. Few people will ever publish their work in an academic journal or even on a blog. But everything that we write down and share with someone else counts: notes we share with a friend, homework we submit to a professor, emails we write to our colleagues, and presentations we deliver to clients all count as knowledge made public.

This might still seem like a radical principle. Should we publicize even the ideas we’ve only just encountered, or opinions half-formed, or wild theories we can’t substantiate? Do we really need even more people broadcasting half-baked opinions and theories online?

But the important part is the principle: Work as if writing is the only thing that matters. Having a clear, tangible purpose when you consume information completely changes the way you engage with it. You’ll be more focused, more curious, more rigorous, and more demanding. You won’t waste time writing down every detail, trying to make a perfect record of everything that was said. Instead, you’ll try to learn the basics as efficiently as possible so you can get to the point where open questions arise, as these are the only questions worth writing about.

Almost every aspect of your life will change when you live as if you are working toward publication. You’ll read differently, becoming more focused on the parts most relevant to the argument you’re building. You’ll ask sharper questions, no longer satisfied with vague explanations or leaps in logic. You’ll naturally seek venues to present your work, since the feedback you receive will propel your thinking forward like nothing else. You’ll begin to act more deliberately, thinking several steps beyond what you’re reading to consider its implications and potential.

Deliberate practice is the best way to get better at anything, and in this case, you are deliberately practicing the most fundamental skill of all: thinking. Even if you never actually publish one line of writing, you will vastly improve every aspect of your thinking when you do everything as if nothing counts except writing.

Principle #3: Nobody ever starts from scratch

One of the most damaging myths about creativity is that it starts from nothing. The blank page, the white canvas, the empty dance floor: Our most romantic and universal artistic motifs seem to suggest that “starting from scratch” is the essence of creativity.

This belief is reinforced by how writing is typically taught: We are told to “pick a topic” as a necessary first step, then to conduct research, discuss and analyze it, and finally come to a conclusion.

But how can you decide on an interesting topic before you’ve read about it? You have to immerse yourself in research before you even know how to formulate a good question. And the decision to read about one subject versus another also doesn’t appear out of thin air. It usually comes from an existing interest or understanding. The truth is every intellectual endeavor starts with a preceding conception.

This is the tension at the heart of the creative process: You have to research before you pick what you will write about. Ideally, you should start researching long before, so you have weeks and months and even years of rich material to work with as soon as you decide on a topic. This is why an external system to record your research is so critical. It doesn’t just enhance your writing process; it makes it possible.

And all this pre-research also involves writing. We build up an ever-growing pool of externalized thoughts as we read. When the time comes to produce, we aren’t following a blindly invented plan plucked from our unreliable brains. We look in our notes and follow our interests, curiosity, and intuition, which are informed by the actual work of reading, thinking, discussing, and taking notes. We never again have to face that blank screen with the impossible demand of “thinking of something to write about.”

No one ever really starts from scratch. Anything they come up with has to come from prior experience, research, or other understanding. But because they haven’t acted on this fact, they can’t track ideas back to their origins. They have neither supporting material nor accurate sources. Since they haven’t been taking notes from the start, they either have to start with something completely new (which is risky) or retrace their steps (which is boring).

It’s no wonder that nearly every guide to writing begins with “brainstorming.” If you don’t have notes, you have no other option. But this is a bit like a financial advisor telling a 65-year-old to start saving for retirement – too little, too late.

Taking notes allows you to break free from the traditional, linear path of writing. It allows you to systematically extract information from linear sources, mix and shake them up together until new patterns emerge, and then turn them back into linear texts for others to consume. 

You’ll know you’ve succeeded in making this shift when the problem of not having enough to write about is replaced by the problem of having far too much to write about. When you finally arrive at the decision of what to write about, you’ll already have made that decision again and again at every single step along the way. 

Principle #4: Our tools and techniques are only as valuable as the workflow

Just because writing is not a linear process doesn’t mean we should go about it haphazardly. We need a workflow – a repeatable process for collecting, organizing, and sharing ideas.

Writing is often taught as a collection of “tips and tricks” – brainstorm ideas, make an outline, use a three-paragraph structure, repeat the main points, use vivid examples, set a timer. Each one in isolation might make sense, but without the holistic perspective of how they fit together, they add more work than they save. Every additional technique becomes its own project without bringing the whole much further forward. Before long, the whole mess of techniques falls apart under its own weight.

It is only when all the work becomes part of an integrated process that it becomes more than the sum of its parts. Even the best techniques won’t make a difference if they are used in conflicting ways. This is why the slip-box isn’t yet another technique. It is the system in which all the techniques are linked together.

Good systems don’t add options and features; they strip away complexity and distractions from the main work, which is thinking. An undistracted brain and a reliable collection of notes is pretty much all we need. Everything else is just clutter.

Principle #5: Standardization enables creativity

Ahrens uses the excellent analogy of how the invention of shipping containers revolutionized international trade to demonstrate the role of note-taking in modern writing

Container shipping is a simple idea: ship products in standardized containers instead of loading them onto ships haphazardly as had always been done. But it took multiple failed attempts before it was successful, because it wasn’t actually about the container, which after all is just a box.

The potential of the shipping container was only unleashed when every other part of the shipping supply chain was changed to accommodate it. From manufacturing to packaging to final delivery, the design of ships, cranes, trucks, and harbors all had to align around moving containers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once they did, international shipping exploded, setting the stage for Asia to become an economic power among many other historic changes. 

Many people still take notes, if at all, in an ad-hoc, random way. If they see a nice sentence, they underline it. If they want to make a comment, they write it in the margins. If they have a good idea, they write it in whichever notebook is close at hand. And if an article seems important enough, they might make the effort to save an excerpt. This leaves them with many different kinds of notes in many different places and formats. This means when it comes time to write, they first have to undertake a massive project to collect and organize all these scattered notes.

Notes are like shipping containers for ideas. Instead of inventing a new way to take notes for every source you read, use a completely standardized and predictable format every time. It doesn’t matter what the notes contain, which topic they relate to, or what medium they arrived through – you treat each and every note exactly the same way.

It is this standardization of notes that enables a critical mass to build up in one place. Without a standard format, the larger the collection grows, the more time and energy have to be spent navigating the ever-growing inconsistencies between them. A common format removes unnecessary complexity and takes the second-guessing out of the process. Like LEGOs, standardized notes can easily be shuffled around and assembled into endless configurations without losing sight of what they contain. 

The same principle applies to the steps of processing our notes. Consider that no single step in the process of turning raw ideas into finished pieces of writing is particularly difficult. It isn’t very hard to write down notes in the first place. Nor is turning a group of notes into an outline very demanding. It also isn’t much of a challenge to turn a working outline full of relevant arguments into a rough draft. And polishing a well-conceived rough draft into a final draft is trivial.

So if each individual step is so easy, why do we find the overall experience of writing so grueling? Because we try to do all the steps at once. Each of the activities that make up “writing” – reading, reflecting, having ideas, making connections, distinguishing terms, finding the right words, structuring, organizing, editing, correcting, and rewriting – require a very different kind of attention.

Proofreading requires very focused, detail-oriented attention, while choosing which words to put down in the first place might require a more open, free-floating attention. When looking for interesting connections between notes, we often need to be in a playful, curious state of mind, whereas when putting them in logical order, our state of mind probably needs to be more serious and precise.

The slip-box is the host of the process outlined above. It provides a place where distinct batches of work can be created, worked on, and saved permanently until the next time we are ready to deploy that particular kind of attention. It deliberately puts distance between ourselves and what we’ve written, which is essential for evaluating it objectively. It is far easier to switch between the role of creator and critic when there is a clear separation between them, and you don’t have to do both at the same time.

By standardizing and streamlining both the format of our notes and the steps by which we process them, the real work can come to the forefront: thinking, reflecting, writing, discussing, testing, and sharing. This is the work that adds value, and now we have the time to do it more effectively.

Principle #6: Our work only gets better when exposed to high-quality feedback

A workflow is similar to a chemical reaction: It can feed on itself, becoming a virtuous cycle where the positive experience of understanding a text motivates us to take on the next task, which helps us get better at what we’re doing, which in return makes it more likely for us to enjoy our work, and so on. 

Nothing motivates us more than becoming better at what we do. And we can only become better when we intentionally expose our work to high-quality feedback.

There are many forms of feedback, both internal and external – from peers, from teachers, from social media, and from rereading our own writing. But notes are the only kind of feedback that is available anytime you need it. It is the only way to deliberately practice your thinking and communication skills multiple times per day.

It is easy to think we understand a concept until we try to put it in our own words. Each time we try, we practice the core skill of insight: distinguishing the bits that truly matter from those that don’t. The better we become at it, the more efficient and enjoyable our reading becomes.

Feedback also helps us adjust our expectations and predictions about how much we can get done in an hour or a day. Instead of sitting down to the amorphous task of “writing,” we dedicate each working session to concrete tasks that can be finished in a reasonable timeframe: Write three notes, review two paragraphs, check five sources for an essay, etc. At the end of the day, we know exactly how much we accomplished (or didn’t accomplish) and can adjust our future expectations accordingly.

Principle #7: Work on multiple, simultaneous projects

It is only when you have multiple, simultaneous projects and interests that the full potential of an external thinking system is realized.

Think of the last time you read a book. Perhaps you read it for a certain purpose – to gain some familiarity with a topic you’re interested in or find insights for a project you’re working on. What are the chances that the book contains only the precise insights you were looking for, and no others? Extremely low it would seem. We encounter a constant stream of new ideas, but only a tiny fraction of them will be useful and relevant to us at any given moment.

Since the only way to find out which insights a book contains is to read it, you might as well read and take notes productively. Spending a little extra time to record the best ideas you encounter – whether or not you know how they will ultimately be used – vastly increases the chances that you will “stumble upon” them in the future.

The ability to increase the chances of such future accidental encounters is a powerful one, because the best ideas are usually ones we haven’t anticipated. The most interesting topics are the ones we didn’t plan on learning about. But we can anticipate that fact and set our future selves up for a high probability of productive “accidents.”

Principle #8: Organize your notes by context, not by topic

Now that you’ve been collecting notes on your reading, how should you organize them?

The classic mistake is to organize them into ever more specific topics and subtopics. This makes it look less complex, but quickly becomes overwhelming. The more notes pile up, the smaller and narrower the subtopics become, limiting your ability to see meaningful connections between them. With this approach, the greater one’s collection of notes, the less accessible and useful they become.

Instead of organizing by topic and subtopic, it is much more effective to organize by context . Specifically, the context in which it will be used . The primary question when deciding where to put something becomes “In which context will I want to stumble upon this again?”

In other words, instead of filing things away according to where they came from, you file them according to where they’re going. This is the essential difference between organizing like a librarian and organizing like a writer .

A librarian asks “Where should I store this note?” Their goal is to maintain a taxonomy of knowledge that is accessible to everyone, which means they have to use only the most obvious categories. They might file notes on a psychology paper under “misjudgments,” “experimental psychology,” or “experiments.” 

That works fine for a library, but not for a writer. No pile of notes filed uniformly under “psychology” will be easy to turn into a paper. There is no variation or disagreement from which an interesting argument could arise.

A writer asks “In which circumstances will I want to stumble upon this note?” They will file it under a paper they are writing, a conference they are speaking at, or an ongoing collaboration with a colleague. These are concrete, near-term deliverables and not abstract categories.

Organizing by context does take a little bit of thought. The answer isn’t always immediately obvious. A book about personal finance might interest me for completely different reasons if I am a politician working on a campaign speech, a financial advisor trying to help a client, or an economist developing monetary policy. If I encounter a novel engineering method, it may be useful for completely different reasons depending on whether I am working on an engineering textbook, a skyscraper, or a rocket booster.

Writers don’t think about a single, “correct” location for a piece of information. They deal in “scraps” which can often be repurposed and reused elsewhere. The discarded byproducts from one piece of writing may become the essential pillars of the next one. The slip-box is a thinking tool, not an encyclopedia, so completeness is not important. The only gaps we do need to be concerned about are the gaps in the final manuscript we are working toward.

By saving all the byproducts of our writing, we collect all the future material we might need in one place. This approach sets up your future self with everything they need to work as decisively and efficiently as possible. They won’t need to trawl through folder after folder looking for all the sources they need. You’ll already have done that work for them.

Principle #9: Always follow the most interesting path

Ahrens notes that in most cases, students fail not because of a lack of ability, but because they lose a personal connection to what they are learning:

“When even highly intelligent students fail in their studies, it’s most often because they cease to see the meaning in what they were supposed to learn (cf. Balduf 2009), are unable to make a connection to their personal goals (Glynn et al. 2009) or lack the ability to control their own studies autonomously and on their own terms (Reeve and Jan 2006; Reeve 2009).”

This is why we must spend as much time as possible working on things we find interesting. It is not an indulgence. It is an essential part of making our work sustainable and thus successful.

This advice runs counter to the typical approach to planning we are taught. We are told to “make a plan” upfront and in detail. Success is then measured by how closely we stick to this plan. Our changing interests and motivations are to be ignored or suppressed if they interfere with the plan.

The history of science is full of stories of accidental discoveries. Ahrens gives the example of the team that discovered the structure of DNA. It started with a grant, but not a grant to study DNA. They were awarded funds to find a treatment for cancer. As they worked, the team followed their intuition and interest, developing the actual research program along the way (Rheinberger 1997). If they had stuck religiously to their original plan, they probably wouldn’t have discovered a cure for cancer and certainly wouldn’t have discovered the structure of DNA.

Plans are meant to help us feel in control. But it is much more important to actually be in control, which means being able to steer our work towards what we consider interesting and relevant. According to a 2006 study by psychology professor Arlen Moller, “When people experienced a sense of autonomy with regard to the choice [of what to work on], their energy for subsequent tasks was not diminished” (Moller 2006, 1034). In other words, when we have a choice about what to work on and when, it doesn’t take as much willpower to do it.

Our sense of motivation depends on making consistent forward progress. But in creative work, questions change and new directions emerge. That is the nature of insight. So we don’t want to work according to a rigid workflow that is threatened by the unexpected. We need to be able to make small, constant adjustments to keep our interest, motivation, and work aligned.

By breaking down the work of writing into discrete steps, getting quick feedback on each one, and always following the path that promises the most insight, unexpected insights can become the driving force of our work. 

Luhmann never forced himself to do anything and only did what came easily to him: “When I am stuck for one moment, I leave it and do something else.” As in martial arts, if you encounter resistance or an opposing force, you should not push against it but instead redirect it towards another productive goal.

Principle #10: Save contradictory ideas

Working with a slip-box naturally leads us to save ideas that are contradictory or paradoxical.

It’s much easier to develop an argument from a lively discussion of pros and cons rather than a litany of one-sided arguments and perfectly fitting quotes.

Our only criterion for what to save is whether it connects to existing ideas and adds to the discussion. When we focus on open connections, disconfirming or contradictory data suddenly becomes very valuable. It often raises new questions and opens new paths of inquiry. The experience of having one piece of data completely change your perspective can be exhilarating. 

The real enemy of independent thinking is not any external authority, but our own inertia. We need to find ways to counteract confirmation bias – our tendency to take into account only information that confirms what we already believe. We need to regularly confront our errors, mistakes, and misunderstandings. 

By taking notes on a wide variety of sources and in objective formats that exist outside our heads, we practice the skill of seeing what is really there and describing it plainfully and factually. By saving ideas that aren’t compatible with each other and don’t necessarily support what we already think, we train ourselves to develop subtle theories over time instead of immediately jumping to conclusions. 

By playing with a concept, stretching and reconceiving and remixing it, we become less attached to how it was originally presented. We can extract certain aspects or details for our own uses. With so many ideas at our disposal, we are no longer threatened by the possibility that a new idea will undermine existing ones.

Don’t just feel smarter. Become smarter.

Working with a slip-box can be disheartening, because you are constantly faced with the gaps in your understanding. But at the same time, it increases the chances that you will actually move the work forward.

Our choice then is whether we want to feel smarter or become smarter.

Students in most educational institutions are not encouraged to independently build a network of connections between different kinds of information. They aren’t taught how to organize the very best and most relevant knowledge they encounter in a long-term way across many topics. Most tragically of all, they aren’t taught to follow their interests and take the most promising path in their research.

Ultimately, learning should not be about hoarding stockpiles of knowledge like gold coins. It is about becoming a different kind of person with a different way of thinking. The beauty of this approach is that we co-evolve with our slip-boxes: We build the same connections in our heads as we deliberately develop them in our slip-box. Writing then is best seen not only as a tool for thinking but as a tool for personal growth.

The 8 Steps of Taking Smart Notes

Ahrens recommends the following 8 steps for taking notes:

  • Make fleeting notes
  • Make literature notes
  • Make permanent notes
  • Now add your new permanent notes to the slip-box
  • Develop your topics, questions and research projects bottom up from within the slip-box
  • Decide on a topic to write about from within the slip-box
  • Turn your notes into a rough draft
  • Edit and proofread your manuscript

He notes that Luhmann actually had two slip-boxes: the first was the “bibliographical” slip-box, which contained brief notes on the content of the literature he read along with a citation of the source; the second “main” slip-box contained the ideas and theories he developed based on those sources. Both were wooden boxes containing paper index cards. 

Luhmann distinguished between three kinds of notes that went into his slip-boxes: fleeting notes, literature notes, and permanent notes. 

1. Make fleeting notes

Fleeting notes are quick, informal notes on any thought or idea that pops into your mind. They don’t need to be highly organized, and in fact shouldn’t be. They are not meant to capture an idea in full detail, but serve more as reminders of what is in your head.

2. Make literature notes

The second type of note is known as a “literature note.” As he read, Luhmann would write down on index cards the main points he didn’t want to forget or that he thought he could use in his own writing, with the bibliographic details on the back. 

Ahrens offers four guidelines in creating literature notes:

  • Be extremely selective in what you decide to keep
  • Keep the overall note as short as possible
  • Use your own words, instead of copying quotes verbatim
  • Write down the bibliographic details on the source

3. Make permanent notes

Permanent notes are the third type of note, and make up the long-term knowledge that give the slip-box its value.

This step starts with looking through the first two kinds of notes that you’ve created: fleeting notes and literature notes. Ahrens recommends doing this about once a day, before you completely forget what they contain.

As you go through them, think about how they relate to your research, current thinking, or interests. The goal is not just to collect ideas, but to develop arguments and discussions over time . If you need help jogging your memory, simply look at the existing topics in your slip-box, since it already contains only things that interest you. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you turn fleeting and literature notes into permanent notes:

  • How does the new information contradict, correct, support, or add to what I already know?
  • How can I combine ideas to generate something new?
  • What questions are triggered by these new ideas?

As answers to these questions come to mind, write down each new idea, comment, or thought on its own note. If writing on paper, only write on one side, so you can quickly review your notes without having to flip them over.

Write these permanent notes as if you are writing for someone else. That is, use full sentences, disclose your sources, make explicit references, and try to be as precise and brief as possible. 

Once this step is done, throw away (or delete) the fleeting notes from step one and file the literature notes from step two into your bibliographic slip-box.

4. Add your permanent notes to the slip-box

It’s now time to add the permanent notes you’ve created to your slip-box. Do this by filing each note behind a related note (if it doesn’t relate to any existing notes, add it to the very end).

Optionally, you can also:

  • Add links to (and from) related notes
  • Adding it to an “index” – a special kind of note that serves as a “table of contents” and entry point for an important topic, including a sorted collection of links on the topic

Each of the above methods is a way of creating an internal pathway through your slip-box. Like hyperlinks on a website, they give you many ways to associate ideas with each other. By following the links, you encounter new and different perspectives than where you started.

Luhmann wrote his notes with great care, not much different from his style in the final manuscript. More often than not, new notes would become part of existing strands of thought. He would add links to other notes both close by, and in distantly related fields. Rarely would a note stay in isolation.

5. Develop your topics, questions, and research projects bottom up from within the slip-box

With so many standardized notes organized in a consistent format, you are now free to develop ideas in a “bottom up” way. See what is there, what is missing, and which questions arise. Look for gaps that you can fill through further reading.

If and when needed, another special kind of note you can create is an “overview” note. These notes provide a “bird’s eye view” of a topic that has already been developed to such an extent that a big picture view is needed. Overview notes help to structure your thoughts and can be seen as an in-between step in the development of a manuscript.

6. Decide on a topic to write about from within the slip-box

Instead of coming up with a topic or thesis upfront, you can just look into your slip-box and look for what is most interesting. Your writing will be based on what you already have, not on an unfounded guess about what the literature you are about to read might contain. Follow the connections between notes and collect all the relevant notes on the topic you’ve found.

7. Turn your notes into a rough draft

Don’t simply copy your notes into a manuscript. Translate them into something coherent and embed them into the context of your argument. As you detect holes in your argument, fill them or change the argument.

8. Edit and proofread your manuscript

From this point forward, all you have to do is refine your rough draft until it’s ready to be published.

This process of creating notes and making connections shouldn’t be seen as merely maintenance. The search for meaningful connections is a crucial part of the thinking process. Instead of figuratively searching our memories, we literally go through the slip-box and form concrete links. By working with actual notes, we ensure that our thinking is rooted in a network of facts, thought-through ideas, and verifiable references.

Thank you to Kathleen Martin, Fadeke Adegbuyi, Norman Chella, Fred Terenas, Maruthi Sandeep Medisetty for their feedback and suggestions on this article.

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  • How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples

Published on November 23, 2020 by Shona McCombes . Revised on May 31, 2023.

Summarizing , or writing a summary, means giving a concise overview of a text’s main points in your own words. A summary is always much shorter than the original text.

There are five key steps that can help you to write a summary:

  • Read the text
  • Break it down into sections
  • Identify the key points in each section
  • Write the summary
  • Check the summary against the article

Writing a summary does not involve critiquing or evaluating the source . You should simply provide an accurate account of the most important information and ideas (without copying any text from the original).

Table of contents

When to write a summary, step 1: read the text, step 2: break the text down into sections, step 3: identify the key points in each section, step 4: write the summary, step 5: check the summary against the article, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about summarizing.

There are many situations in which you might have to summarize an article or other source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to show you’ve understood the material
  • To keep notes that will help you remember what you’ve read
  • To give an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review

When you’re writing an academic text like an essay , research paper , or dissertation , you’ll integrate sources in a variety of ways. You might use a brief quote to support your point, or paraphrase a few sentences or paragraphs.

But it’s often appropriate to summarize a whole article or chapter if it is especially relevant to your own research, or to provide an overview of a source before you analyze or critique it.

In any case, the goal of summarizing is to give your reader a clear understanding of the original source. Follow the five steps outlined below to write a good summary.

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You should read the article more than once to make sure you’ve thoroughly understood it. It’s often effective to read in three stages:

  • Scan the article quickly to get a sense of its topic and overall shape.
  • Read the article carefully, highlighting important points and taking notes as you read.
  • Skim the article again to confirm you’ve understood the key points, and reread any particularly important or difficult passages.

There are some tricks you can use to identify the key points as you read:

  • Start by reading the abstract . This already contains the author’s own summary of their work, and it tells you what to expect from the article.
  • Pay attention to headings and subheadings . These should give you a good sense of what each part is about.
  • Read the introduction and the conclusion together and compare them: What did the author set out to do, and what was the outcome?

To make the text more manageable and understand its sub-points, break it down into smaller sections.

If the text is a scientific paper that follows a standard empirical structure, it is probably already organized into clearly marked sections, usually including an introduction , methods , results , and discussion .

Other types of articles may not be explicitly divided into sections. But most articles and essays will be structured around a series of sub-points or themes.

Now it’s time go through each section and pick out its most important points. What does your reader need to know to understand the overall argument or conclusion of the article?

Keep in mind that a summary does not involve paraphrasing every single paragraph of the article. Your goal is to extract the essential points, leaving out anything that can be considered background information or supplementary detail.

In a scientific article, there are some easy questions you can ask to identify the key points in each part.

If the article takes a different form, you might have to think more carefully about what points are most important for the reader to understand its argument.

In that case, pay particular attention to the thesis statement —the central claim that the author wants us to accept, which usually appears in the introduction—and the topic sentences that signal the main idea of each paragraph.

Now that you know the key points that the article aims to communicate, you need to put them in your own words.

To avoid plagiarism and show you’ve understood the article, it’s essential to properly paraphrase the author’s ideas. Do not copy and paste parts of the article, not even just a sentence or two.

The best way to do this is to put the article aside and write out your own understanding of the author’s key points.

Examples of article summaries

Let’s take a look at an example. Below, we summarize this article , which scientifically investigates the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Davis et al. (2015) set out to empirically test the popular saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are often used to represent a healthy lifestyle, and research has shown their nutritional properties could be beneficial for various aspects of health. The authors’ unique approach is to take the saying literally and ask: do people who eat apples use healthcare services less frequently? If there is indeed such a relationship, they suggest, promoting apple consumption could help reduce healthcare costs.

The study used publicly available cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants were categorized as either apple eaters or non-apple eaters based on their self-reported apple consumption in an average 24-hour period. They were also categorized as either avoiding or not avoiding the use of healthcare services in the past year. The data was statistically analyzed to test whether there was an association between apple consumption and several dependent variables: physician visits, hospital stays, use of mental health services, and use of prescription medication.

Although apple eaters were slightly more likely to have avoided physician visits, this relationship was not statistically significant after adjusting for various relevant factors. No association was found between apple consumption and hospital stays or mental health service use. However, apple eaters were found to be slightly more likely to have avoided using prescription medication. Based on these results, the authors conclude that an apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it may keep the pharmacist away. They suggest that this finding could have implications for reducing healthcare costs, considering the high annual costs of prescription medication and the inexpensiveness of apples.

However, the authors also note several limitations of the study: most importantly, that apple eaters are likely to differ from non-apple eaters in ways that may have confounded the results (for example, apple eaters may be more likely to be health-conscious). To establish any causal relationship between apple consumption and avoidance of medication, they recommend experimental research.

An article summary like the above would be appropriate for a stand-alone summary assignment. However, you’ll often want to give an even more concise summary of an article.

For example, in a literature review or meta analysis you may want to briefly summarize this study as part of a wider discussion of various sources. In this case, we can boil our summary down even further to include only the most relevant information.

Using national survey data, Davis et al. (2015) tested the assertion that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and did not find statistically significant evidence to support this hypothesis. While people who consumed apples were slightly less likely to use prescription medications, the study was unable to demonstrate a causal relationship between these variables.

Citing the source you’re summarizing

When including a summary as part of a larger text, it’s essential to properly cite the source you’re summarizing. The exact format depends on your citation style , but it usually includes an in-text citation and a full reference at the end of your paper.

You can easily create your citations and references in APA or MLA using our free citation generators.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

Finally, read through the article once more to ensure that:

  • You’ve accurately represented the author’s work
  • You haven’t missed any essential information
  • The phrasing is not too similar to any sentences in the original.

If you’re summarizing many articles as part of your own work, it may be a good idea to use a plagiarism checker to double-check that your text is completely original and properly cited. Just be sure to use one that’s safe and reliable.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

A summary is a short overview of the main points of an article or other source, written entirely in your own words. Want to make your life super easy? Try our free text summarizer today!

A summary is always much shorter than the original text. The length of a summary can range from just a few sentences to several paragraphs; it depends on the length of the article you’re summarizing, and on the purpose of the summary.

You might have to write a summary of a source:

  • As a stand-alone assignment to prove you understand the material
  • For your own use, to keep notes on your reading
  • To provide an overview of other researchers’ work in a literature review
  • In a paper , to summarize or introduce a relevant study

To avoid plagiarism when summarizing an article or other source, follow these two rules:

  • Write the summary entirely in your own words by paraphrasing the author’s ideas.
  • Cite the source with an in-text citation and a full reference so your reader can easily find the original text.

An abstract concisely explains all the key points of an academic text such as a thesis , dissertation or journal article. It should summarize the whole text, not just introduce it.

An abstract is a type of summary , but summaries are also written elsewhere in academic writing . For example, you might summarize a source in a paper , in a literature review , or as a standalone assignment.

All can be done within seconds with our free text summarizer .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, May 31). How to Write a Summary | Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-summarize/

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Shona McCombes

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How to Take Better Notes During Lectures, Discussions, and Interviews

Tried-and-True Methods and Tips From Expert Note-Takers

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  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Note-taking is the practice of writing down or otherwise recording key points of information. It's an important part of the research process. Notes taken on class lectures or discussions may serve as study aids, while notes taken during an interview may provide material for an essay , article , or book. "Taking notes doesn't simply mean scribbling down or marking up the things that strike your fancy," say Walter Pauk and Ross J.Q. Owens in their book, "How to Study in College." "It means using a proven system and then effectively recording information before tying everything together."

Cognitive Benefits of Note-Taking

Note-taking involves certain cognitive behavior; writing notes engages your brain in specific and beneficial ways that help you grasp and retain information. Note-taking can result in broader learning than simply mastering course content because it helps you to process information and make connections between ideas, allowing you to apply your new knowledge to novel contexts, according to Michael C. Friedman, in his paper, "Notes on Note-Taking: Review of Research and Insights for Students and Instructors," which is part of the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching.

Shelley O'Hara, in her book, "Improving Your Study Skills: Study Smart, Study Less," agrees, stating:

"Taking notes involves  active listening , as well as connecting and relating information to ideas you already know. It also involves seeking answers to questions that arise from the material."

Taking notes forces you to actively engage your brain as you identify what's important in terms of what the speaker is saying and begin to organize that information into a comprehensible format to decipher later. That process, which is far more than simply scribbling what you hear, involves some heavy brainwork.

Most Popular Note-Taking Methods

Note-taking aids in reflection, mentally reviewing what you write. To that end, there are certain methods of note-taking that are among the most popular:

  • The Cornell method involves dividing a piece of paper into three sections: a space on the left for writing the main topics, a larger space on the right to write your notes, and a space at the bottom to summarize your notes. Review and clarify your notes as soon as possible after class. Summarize what you've written on the bottom of the page, and finally, study your notes.
  • Creating a mind map is a visual diagram that lets you organize your notes in a two-dimensional structure, says  Focus . You create a mind map by writing the subject or headline in the center of the page, then add your notes in the form of branches that radiate outward from the center.
  • Outlining  is similar to creating an outline that you might use for a research paper.
  • Charting  allows you to break up information into such categories as similarities and differences; dates, events, and impact; and pros and cons, according to  East Carolina University .
  • The  sentence method is when you record every new thought, fact, or topic on a separate line. "All information is recorded, but it lacks [the] clarification of major and minor topics. Immediate review and editing are required to determine how information should be organized," per East Carolina University.

Two-Column Method and Lists

There are, of course, other variations on the previously described note-taking methods, such as the two-column method, says Kathleen T. McWhorter, in her book, "Successful College Writing," who explains that to use this method:

"Draw a vertical line from the top of a piece of paper to the bottom. The left-hand column should be about half as wide as the right-hand column. In the wider, right-hand column, record ideas and facts as they are presented in a lecture or discussion. In the narrower, left-hand column, note your own questions as they arise during the class."

Making a list  can also be effective, say John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot in "Step by Step to College and Career Success." "Once you have decided on a format for taking notes, you may also want to develop your own system of abbreviations ," they suggest.

Note-Taking Tips

Among other tips offered by note-taking experts:

  • Leave a space between entries so that you can fill in any missing information.
  • Use a laptop and download information to add to your notes either during or after the lecture.
  • Understand that there is a difference between taking notes on what you read and what you hear (in a lecture). If you're unsure what that might be, visit a teacher or professor during office hours and ask them to elaborate.

If none of these methods suit you, read the words of author Paul Theroux in his article "A World Duly Noted" published in The Wall Street Journal in 2013:

"I write down everything and never assume that I will remember something because it seemed vivid at the time."

And once you read these words, don't forget to jot them down in your preferred method of note-taking so that you won't forget them.

Brandner, Raphaela. “How to Take Effective Notes Using Mind Maps.” Focus.

East Carolina University.

Friedman, Michael C. "Notes on Note-Taking: Review of Research and Insights for Students and Instructors." Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teachi ng, 2014.

Gardner, John N. and Betsy O. Barefoot. Step by Step to College and Career Success . 2 nd ed., Thomson, 2008.

McWhorter, Kathleen T. Successful College Writing . 4 th ed, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

O'Hara, Shelley. Improving Your Study Skills: Study Smart, Study Less . Wiley, 2005.

Pauk, Walter and Ross J.Q. Owens . How to Study in College . 11 th ed, Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2004.

Theroux, Paul. "A World Duly Noted." The Wall Street Journal , 3 May 2013.

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Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

Taking Notes

Stacey Corbitt

Chapter Overview

College is the place where young adults get many opportunities to gain experience – and sometimes fail spectacularly! – in a relatively safe environment. For that reason, this is the perfect time to experiment with new and different ways to engage with coursework and study habits. Spending time now to explore some proven methods of note-taking will increase your chances of academic success and carry over to professional success. This chapter aims to help students develop and learn to employ a method for taking well-organized, usable notes with the goal of improving the learner’s experiences in college and beyond.

Taking notes in lectures

One difference between high school and college that many new college students learn early in their first semester is an expansion of note-taking. Were you taught to take notes in high school lecture classes, and reminded by your instructor to write information down, and even graded or quizzed on your class notes? Whether or not your high school experience included practice at taking notes, expect college coursework to present constant opportunities to write and review notes as part of your learning process. You will take notes in college in an effort to understand and remember new material, as well as to draw connections with what you already know.

College instructors have traditionally presented lessons in the form of lectures; and this material delivery method for higher education continues to be common for many disciplines, particularly in the first- and second-year level of university education. Whether large class sizes and venues make lectures the most efficient means of sharing information, or another set of circumstances dictate, college students can expect to get plenty of practice watching and listening to professors present lectures. Developing keen listening skills (discussed in another chapter) and a working method of note-taking for lectures is imperative to college success.

Taking notes in research

Students have continuous opportunities to experiment with note-taking methods for classroom-based learning: additionally, research assignments as well as opportunities to actively participate in scholarly research afforded to students may necessitate additional levels of note-taking skills. Primary research activities, for example, may lend themselves to taking notes in laboratory notebooks or field observation logbooks. Secondary research efforts benefit from students’ ability to summarize and paraphrase source materials in real time while attaching citation information.

Note-taking styles

The information in this section was adapted from Success in College, “ Chapter 4: Listening, taking notes, and remembering” (2012). The following table summarizes four of the most common methods of taking notes during lecture classes, research, and self-study sessions.

Take a closer look at each of the featured methods of note-taking. All styles present some challenges, advantages, and disadvantages, as demonstrated in the examples provided below (adapted from Success in College, 2012). Try to keep an open mind to trying something new:

List method

Success in College (2019) describes the first method in this way:

Take a look at the example page of notes presented as Figure 1 on the next page. Have you employed the list method of taking notes in the past? What do you see as the disadvantages of relying on this note-taking method?

The passage above, quoted from Success in College , recommends that you “…transcribe your notes to [another] method after class….” Do you consider this extra work a disadvantage to the list method of note-taking? How might rewriting your notes benefit your learning?

Figure 1: Example notes demonstrating the list method (Success in College, 2019).

note taking summary writing

Outlining method

According to Success in College (2019),

The advantage of the outline method is that it allows you to prioritize the material. Key ideas are written to the left of the page, subordinate ideas are then indented, and details of the subordinate ideas can be indented further.

_____________________________________

At first you may have trouble identifying when the instructor moves from one idea to another. This takes practice and experience with each instructor, so don’t give up! In the early stages you should use your syllabus to determine what key ideas the instructor plans to present. Your reading assignments before class can also give you guidance in identifying the key ideas.

If you’re using your laptop computer for taking notes, a basic word processing application… is very effective. Format your document by selecting the outline format from the format bullets menu. Use the increase or decrease indent buttons to navigate the level of importance you want to give each item.

After class be sure to review your notes and then summarize the class in one or two short paragraphs using your own words. This summary will significantly affect your recall and will help you prepare for the next class.

Students sometimes have experience with outlining when they begin college: perhaps a high school teacher presented class materials in outline format, or writing assignments required development of an outline. Think about outlining in your past experience, either with writing assignments or note-taking. Considering the courses in which you are currently enrolled, use the space below to discuss in which of those courses you might try taking notes using the outline method. What do you know about the lectures or work in that class that makes you think outline note-taking would work?

note taking summary writing

Figure 2: Example notes demonstrating the outline method (Success in College, 2019).

Mind-mapping/concept mapping method

Success in College (2019) describes the third method of taking notes we will study as one that is “very graphic” in nature:

Figure 3 below introduces the mapping method of taking notes.

note taking summary writing

Figure 3: Example notes demonstrating the mapping method (Success in College, 2019).

Cornell method

Finally, the fourth note-taking method to explore in this chapter includes an engineered structure that was developed at Cornell University a half-century ago. Rather than developing organically like the previous three methods, Cornell-style note-taking prescribes a format (see Figure 4) that is often recommended by lecturers for use by college students.

note taking summary writing

The Cornell method follows a very specific format that consists of four boxes: a header, two columns, and a footer.

The header is a small box across the top of the page. In it you write identification information like the course name and the date of the class. Underneath the header are two columns: a narrow one on the left (no more than one-third of the page) and a wide one on the right. The wide column, called the “notes” column, takes up most of the page and is used to capture your notes using any of the methods outlined earlier. The left column, known as the “cue” or “recall” column, is used to jot down main ideas, keywords, questions, clarifications, and other notes. It should be used both during the class and when reviewing your notes after class. Finally, use the box in the footer to write a summary of the class in your own words. This will help you make sense of your notes in the future and is a valuable tool to aid with recall and studying.

A final thought from the source

Chapter conclusion

College writers experience a transformation from being students who are told by teachers what to write down and recall from their study materials to adults who are largely responsible for their own advanced learning. While instructors employ various means of encouraging students to take notes in lectures, laboratories, and while conducting research, students must learn to develop their own study materials by taking useful, clear, and complete notes during all learning activities. Many variations of note-taking methods exist, and this chapter provides a cursory introduction to 4 of those methods. You are encouraged to try out all of the methods described here to determine your own best fit for setting up your success in understanding and recalling lessons. Finally, regardless of your ultimate choice of method(s), recognize that reviewing and summarizing your own notes early in the process is a significant key to success in the learning process.

Developmental writing assignment

Choose a lecture-based course you are taking now and use the Cornell method to take notes for one classroom session. Create a Cornell-style form to use in taking your class notes, and complete and submit a copy of your notes worksheet together with a post-class summary and a reflection memo about your experience.

Technical writing document creation assignment

Write and submit a summary and reflection memo comparing mind-mapping (or another of the methods discussed in this chapter) to the Cornell method. Discuss how the previous assignment and your other research inform your practice of note-taking.

Lardbucket.org (2012). Listening, taking notes, and remembering. In Schmitz, A. (Ed.), Success in College , V 1.0 (Chapter 4). License: CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 . https://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/success-in-college/

Mindful Technical Writing Copyright © 2020 by Stacey Corbitt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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