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Active reading

Note taking strategies and templates

When you are reading deeply and actively, you also need to be taking notes. Good note taking is central to the reading and writing process at university.

Exploring strategies and different templates or tools for taking effective, purposeful notes will strengthen your research and writing skills for both university and work. 

Note taking with purpose

There are various note taking strategies and the one you choose will depend on your initial purpose for reading.

  • Your purpose for reading informs what information to include in your notes from the readings.
  • How you plan to use the information informs how to organise your notes.
  • The purpose for your note taking will also make choosing a strategy easier.


Note taking approaches – find the right approach for you

There are various ways to take notes and many note taking strategies you can use. Your notes can be handwritten or digital. You might also like to use visual notes, such as mind maps or drawings. Another option might be to verbalise your notes and record yourself. 

It’s a good idea to try different note taking methods to figure out what works best for you. Remember your purpose for taking notes will also help you choose an approach.

Note taking tips

Explore some general tips to help you develop effective note taking by clicking on the plus icons in the interactive below.




Activity overview

This interactive image hotspot unpacks four main reading strategies. Each hotspot has the strategy name with an image reflecting the concept. Hotspots are displayed as plus (+) icons that can be clicked, presenting information for each reading strategy.

Hotspot 1

  • Write keywords or assessment question at the top of the page to stay focussed.
  • Keep track of full reference details of each source.


Hotspot 2

  • Create a mind map of your notes.
  • Discuss your notes – explaining an idea can help you consolidate what you have read and learnt.


Hotspot 3

  • Only take notes of the information that is relevant to your purpose.
  • Use dot points to write your notes.


Hotspot 4

  • Clearly label summaries (S), paraphrases (P) and quotes (Q).
  • Use different colours to show your own ideas, keywords, definitions and questions.


Hotspot 5

  • Paraphrase (write in your own words) or summarise the key points (with citations) as you read.
  • It is preferable to use your own words - only quote if necessary.


Hotspot 6

  • Use images or diagrams to record ideas.
  • Use abbreviations


Hotspot 7

  • Review your notes within 24 hours to reinforce your learning.
  • Summarise your own notes as early as possible.


Different ways to take notes

Note taking approaches can vary both in terms of format (digital versus using pen and paper) and in terms of style (visual note taking vs written style).  Some people work best taking written notes digitally and others prefer to sketch out visually on a drawing up. Others really value the action of hand writing into a notebook. 

Click to open the drop-downs below to explore details on digital and visual note taking.  

Digital note taking approach

You may prefer to work digitally when taking your notes. Explore the interactive slides below for some suggested methods for digital note taking. You can then decide what works best for you.

Visual note taking approaches

Many students learn more effectively when producing their notes in a visual format. You can take visual notes as you read or create a visual representation of your notes when you have finished reading. How you take visual notes depends on the purpose and what works best for you.

Explore the interactive slides below for details and examples of visual note taking.





Learn more about including literature in your writing. Deakin’s academic skills guide on Using Sources will help you weave academic literature into your critical reflection assessments. It’s focused on supporting evidence in your writing.