The notes from readily available study guides are nowhere near as effective as the ones you gain from taking personal notes. The right types of notes can mean the difference between an A or an F on a literature test. Good test grades depend on how well you understand information, not how well it is momentarily committed to memory. Clear knowledge stays in the memory longer, whereas disorganized items get lost quickly. To save a class average, as well as your overall grade point average, take the extra time to compile thorough notes.

Preparing to Read and Take Notes

Step 1

Divide the book into smaller sections. This allows concentration on shorter amounts of information at a time. For example, if the book is 10 chapters long, it might be beneficial to divide it into five sections of two chapters each.

Step 2

Examine the novel to see if includes a summary section listing the main characters. If the book lacks a summary or descriptive cover, keep track of the important characters while you read. A chart similar to a family tree organizes the characters and the relationships between them.

Step 3

Write a title on each sheet of writing paper to assign a particular category of notes to each page. This will make it easier to pinpoint specific notes when studying.

Following Notetaking Procedures

Step 1

Read through each chapter at a pace that allows you to comprehend the storyline. While you read, write down character names, page numbers of key events in each chapter and a one- to three-sentence summary of each chapter.

Step 2

Write descriptions of each character. Include how the character looks and acts, and note significant things the character does. Significant actions are events that cause a noticeable change in the plot of the story.

Step 3

Define relationships between characters, including connections that include family relationships, enemies, friends or anything that causes interaction between characters.

Step 4

Reference character descriptions and identify their relation to the theme for a better understanding of the big picture the novel is trying to paint.

Step 5

Write down important quotations that give hint to or help explain the theme, generally from the main characters. These passages should leap off the page as they are read. Note the page numbers for future reference.

Step 6

Look up unfamiliar words in a reliable dictionary. Don't assume you know the meaning of a word and risk missing an important piece of information.

Step 7

Write down publication information for bibliography purposes. This information typically includes: author, book title, publisher, place of publication, date, and page number. You may also find significant passages on the Internet. Use the publication information found from the passage look-up.


Do not write lengthy notes. Summarize without using unnecessary words.


Typing notes will help further commit them to memory. Repetition helps commit information to memory.


Rushing through note-taking, reading and studying may lead to incomplete comprehension and less than the desired results.

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