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Taking Notes

Visualizing Method

The Visualizing Method focuses on how you code a reading or your notes while researching for a written assignment.

Coding is a process of labelling and organizing to identify different themes and the relationship between them.

After you find ideas and quotes that you could use in your written assignment, you can colour code the article or your notes to help you visualize your arguments or identify key topics.

Visualizing Method sample. Refer to the Word document or PDF document below for the complete coded article.

How to Take Notes Using the Visualizing Method

  1. Add citation information at the top of the page: Include the basics (title, author, publication), but the more details the better!
  2. Skim the article or book chapter: Get a rough idea of the content—how does it connect with your topic or research question?
  3. Highlight key people and groups, and then highlight key documents: News articles or website posts often build their arguments by referencing key people or groups working in the field, or key documents that have important information. Highlight these areas and make sure to read their work too!
  4. Identify key themes and group them by colour: The goal here is to be able to look at an article and—without reading it—identify the key themes based on the colours you used to code the work. Pick your colours and create a legend at the top of your page so you know what each colour means.
  5. Create a document based on each highlight colour: Once you've finished your research, pick one of your colours and transfer all the highlighted text into a new document or onto a new sheet of paper. This new page should capture all the information about a specific topic you identified while reading from many sources. You now have a document that could represent a new section of your final written assignment!

Pros & Cons of the Visualizing Method


  • Allows students to see ideas and themes at a quick glance once the coding process is complete.
  • Encourages students to further build out the sources they could use for their assignments (e.g. taking note of the people, groups, and documents cited in articles).


  • Students might discover more and more new topics while researching, which would each require new colours for the coding process.
  • Process still requires students to copy their highlighted material or notes to a new file to make their assignment outline.