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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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4.1 Adding short notes in the margins of highlighted texts

This type of note making can be used while reading and underlining the text. However, to gain a better understanding of the text, you may want to read it again and use this opportunity to add notes in the margin. These notes can consist of:

  • key words
  • definitions
  • translations of new words
  • comments
  • reference to related resources
  • questions.

When making short notes you need to be concise. Trying to get everything down is very time consuming and can result in notes as long as the article itself. One way to save time and keep your notes as short as possible is to make use of symbols, shorthand and abbreviations. You probably already know some short forms and you can add any others that you make up. A whole range of symbols and abbreviations can be used, some of which are reproduced below (Figure 6).

Examples of symbols and abbreviations that can be used for note making
Figure 6 Examples of symbols and abbreviations that can be used for note making

In addition, you can use your own form of shorthand, which sometimes entails leaving out vowels or cutting off the ends of words. This method is particularly effective where longer words are concerned. For example, concentrated becomes conc., advantage and disadvantage become adv. and disadv. respectively, and consequently becomes consq. Developing your own shorthand that makes sense to you can be extremely time efficient and after a while it becomes a language of your own that flows easily from the pen.

Figure 7 shows an annotated paragraph. The annotations reproduce the highlighted text using abbreviations. For example, NRG has been used to abbreviate energy and cntry to abbreviate countries.

Example of an annotated paragraph
Figure 7 Example of an annotated paragraph

As you read, you may also want to add annotations that help to define new words, ask questions or refer to specific pages in other sources. In addition, while making sense of the text, some readers may add annotations that help to explain ideas and relationships, or add an example that they may not highlight but that still needs to be understood or may be useful at a later date. This is illustrated in Figure 8.

Example of an annotated text
Figure 8 Example of an annotated text

If you don’t mind writing on hard copy or in books, this method of note making can be effective. As space is limited, this technique encourages you to be selective and reduce the key information to just a few words and/or symbols. Thinking of and recording questions helps you to predict and prepare for the content of the following paragraphs and therefore process the information they contain.