Have you ever spent hours on the web researching for an essay, ending up with no relevant notes nor any idea of the main topics you should tackle?

A woman looking at a computer with despair.

Taking notes efficiently will help you get started on your next fantastic essay!

Get Prepared

A laptop on a desk beside a coffee cup, a phone, and a notepad Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

To guide your research and make it more efficient, you need to:

  1. Take time to read and understand your assignment

  2. Brainstorm: write down everything you know on the topic

  3. Make a list of subtopics you could focus on

  4. Choose an angle that interests you

Organize Your Notes

You can use different ways to take notes:

  1. CARDS

  • Remember: 1 card = 1 topic

  • Leave some space on each card for your comments, second thoughts, and cross- references

  1. MIND MAPS are a great way to organize your ideas

  2. TABLES: draw a 3 column table with topics/subtopics in the first column, the corresponding info you find in the second, and your personal comments in third

  3. TITLES, SUBTITLES, AND BULLETS: You might want to choose the traditional way of taking notes.

A person taking notes for an essay

Do what works for you!

Bonus if your notes are handwritten.

Use Your Own Words

Summarize the ideas in your own words as you take notes.

It will help you:

  • Understand the topic better

  • Retain information effectively

  • Develop your own opinion on the topic

  • Avoid plagiarism

Everything is a copy of a copy.

Don't Go Overboard

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When you take too many notes, "you risk writing an essay that's full of irrelevant material and getting lower grades."

Only write down information that will help answer your essay question.

Your essay should show your own thinking and not a patchwork of others' ideas.

Organize Your Notes

A series of notepads on a desk

It's a good idea to organize your notes according to each source as you go along. It's time-consuming and stressful to look for source details at the end.

Open a special page on your computer to record bibliographic info in the course of your research.


What advice should you follow to help you take notes?

Take Action

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