How To Highlight And Annotate Your Textbooks Effectively

Effective note taking will save you time when it comes time to study. Below are some suggestions on how to make the most the most of the notes you jot in your textbooks.

Finish reading before marking. Never mark until you have finished reading a full paragraph or headed section and have paused to think about what you just read. The procedure will keep you from grabbing at everything that looks important at first glance.

Be extremely selective. Don’t underline or jot down so many items that they overload your memory or cause you to try to think in several directions at once. Be stingy with your markings, but don’t be so brief that you’ll have to read through the page again when you review.

 Use your own words. Notes in the margins should be in your own words. Since your own words represent your own thinking they will later be powerful cues to the ideas on the page.

 Be brief. Underline brief but meaningful phrases, rather than complete sentences. Make your marginal jottings short and to the point. They will make a sharper impression on your memory, and they will be easier to use when you recite and review.

Be swift You don’t have all day for marking. Read, go back for a mini-overview, and make your markings. Then attack the next portion of the chapter.

Be neat. Neatness takes conscious effort, not time. Later when you review, the neat marks will encourage you and save time, since the ideas will be easily and clearly perceived.

Organize facts and ideas under categories. Items within categories are far more easily memorized than random facts and ideas.

Try cross-referencing. For example, if you find an idea on page 64 that has a direct bearing on an idea back on page 28, draw a little arrow pointing upward and write “28” by it. Then turn back to page 28 and alongside the idea there, draw an arrow pointing downward and write “64” by it. In this way you’ll tie the two ideas together, in your mind and in your reviewing.

Be systematic. There are many ways to mark the text: single and double underlines; the use of asterisks, circling, boxing for important items; and the use of top and bottom margins for longer notations. If some of these ideas appeal to you, work them into your marking system, one or two at a time. But use them consistently so you will remember what they mean at review time.

 From: Pauk, W. (1984) How to study in college. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Copyrights by The Curators of the University of Missouri, 2006

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons

Author: DePaul SI

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a program operating out of the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. Supplemental Instruction aims to help students successfully complete historically difficult classes through peer-assisted study sessions.

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