Whether our work involves close readings or critical readings, we will want to jot down questions and ideas as we work our way through a text. Active reading is hard work and we do not want to lose track of our insights. Since careful reading generates questions, one approach to note taking is to organize our reflections under question and sub-question headings, leaving plenty of space beneath each question for relevant observations and reflections. As we continue recording questions and reflections, we may discover our thesis statement and the outline of our paper.
Our note taking will be most efficient, if we take the time to document our sources, using the style our professor requires (see “Acknowledging Sources” under “Writing to Understand” below). And, we also double check to make sure that any quotations in our notes are exact; avoid inadvertent plagiarism by providing our own summaries and paraphrases of the material (see “Avoiding Plagiarism” below under “Revising.)