Highlighting and making notes are the two methods that students depend on to reduce and record the important material in their textbooks. Initially, we encourage you to do both, so that you will have the opportunity to develop the skills that are associated with these different techniques.
Whatever method you decide to use, you should not highlight your text or take notes until you have read a paragraph, understood it, and identified the key concepts and details.
Read a paragraph or section through slowly, looking for the main ideas. After you have read the paragraph through in this manner, go back up to the top of the paragraph and start skimming down. Skim down until you identify where the main idea is most clearly stated. When you reach this point, stop and highlight the main idea and relevant supporting information. After you are finished highlighting a paragraph you should write questions, comments and/or associative cue words in the margin of your text.The cue words that you place in the margin of your text will provide you with a brief outline of the important material so that you can easily remember this material in an organized and complete fashion.
If you find the material difficult, you can take notes on your text.
The process used to make separate notes is almost identical to the one used when you highlight. The first time you read a paragraph, read it slowly for comprehension, so that you can identify the main idea(s) and supporting material and explanations. When you finish reading the paragraph, go back up to the top of it and quickly, in your head, restate the author's main idea using your own words. Now skim down through the paragraph to verify that the main idea that you have put into your own words is, in fact, the main idea that the author wants you to get. As soon as you verify this, stop and write a sentence or two in your notebook which captures the author's main idea in your own words. Now make notes that record as much of the other detail in the paragraph as you feel is important.
To summarize, the process of forcing yourself to put the author's ideas into your own words offers excellent feedback that you understand the material and are learning it. Developing your skills and confidence at expressing your ideas in written form will pay off at exam time, when you will be required to record test answers in your own words.