How To Take Notes When Reading English

Do you want to know how to take notes when reading English?

Whenever you read something in English, take notes.

This can help you improve your English vocabulary, but it can also help you remember what you are reading.

Note-taking is a skill and I would like to show you how to do this.

Shall we take a look?

Let’s read on…


What You Will Need


You will need the following items to help you take notes:


  • Notebooks
  • Pen and pencil
  • A dictionary


You will need notebooks. And don’t think you need expensive notebooks. You can get by with very cheap ones.

Or you could use an online note-taking app like Evernote. This is very convenient and you can check your notes on your smartphone wherever you are.

The choice is up to you, so use whatever you feel comfortable to use.


You may need notebooks for the following categories:


  • Vocabulary
  • Books — any particular book you are reading
  • Articles — any articles that you read


Taking Notes for English Vocabulary


If you are just writing notes to help with your vocabulary, this is what you need to do.


  • Write the new word
  • Find the meaning of the new word
  • Write the meaning of the new word
  • Think of your own sentence


So let’s look in closer detail with an example:


Write the New Word


Imagine you are reading and you come across a new English word — CONCEAL.

You have never seen this word before — or maybe you have, but you are unsure of the correct meaning.

So you write it in your Vocabulary Notebook.


Find the Meaning of the New Word


Then you look the word up in your dictionary and you write the meaning down next to the word.

Write this next to the new word in your vocabulary book.



Think of Your Own Sentence


Now you have to think of your own sentence using this word.


And that is all you have to do!


Try to get into the habit of doing this with all unfamiliar words or phrases that you encounter. Over time, you will fill your vocabulary notebook with many new words and phrases.

Revise these regularly and your English vocabulary will grow and grow.


Taking Notes for a Book you are Reading


When you are reading a book, you should take notes all the time as you read.

You might think this is inconvenient to do so, but trust me, it will help you remember what you read. It will also help you write book reports or essays.


Essentially, there are three things you need to do:


  • Write Notes in Rough
  • Go Through All your Notes
  • Write the Notes Out Neatly


Let’s look at these in more detail:


Write Notes in Rough


When you get to the end of a section in the book you are reading, or the end of a chapter, you should write your thoughts in your notebook.

Try not to overthink what you are writing, just let your thoughts out onto the page.


Go Through All your Notes


When you finish reading the book, now is the time to go through all your notes.

Read them clearly and make sure that you can understand what you wrote.


Write the Notes Out Neatly


Then write all the notes out in full sentences so that anyone else could easily understand them.

As you write them out, it will help you process the information in your mind and force the notes to memory.


But you should think about WHY you are taking notes for this book.

Is it for:

  • An exam
  • Just to remember
  • For an essay


Think about question words — what, when, why, who, where, how.

These can help you write the notes for you.

For example:

  • What is the author trying to say?
  • Who are the characters in this scene?
  • Where are they?
  • When is it?


This can help you form your rough notes.


Taking Notes for Articles You Read


This is a method that I have used when taking notes for an article.

  • Mind Mapping
  • Make an Outline

Let’s look in more detail…


Mind Mapping


This is a process where you just scribble notes down anywhere on the page, often inside ‘bubbles’ on the page.

You don’t have to write in any particular order, you can just write the important things you need to remember about the article.

I have used one of my own articles as an example — The Benefits of Reading English Out Loud

So, for example, it could look like this:


Make an Outline


Then once you have all the notes scribbled down in your mind map, you can then transfer them to an outline to put them all in order.


Like this:


Title: The Benefits of Reading English Out Loud

Writer: David Buckley

Summary: an article that highlights eight benefits to reading English out loud

  • Practise Reading
  • Practise Speaking
  • Improve Concentration
  • Improve Vocabulary
  • Better Pronunciation
  • Better Reading Comprehension
  • Understand Punctuation
  • Improve Writing




I hope this provides some help when taking notes for vocabulary or reading books or articles.

Many students forget to take notes — or simply forget to do it at all.

But it is a great habit to get into as it will make studying a lot easier and you will be much more productive.


Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “How To Take Notes When Reading English”

  1. Taking notes is just one more strategy to learn anything and you never know when you will need the new knowledge. I also suggest highlighting and drawing symbols on your rough notes, before rewriting them, to extract the main points. For EFL students extracting the vocabulary is a MUST if you want to improve.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top