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Taking Notes

Highlighting Method

The Highlighting Method for taking notes is the easiest and the fastest approach—as you read, you highlight important information in your textbook or course reading directly, and then make your notes based on what you've highlighted.

You can also use this method to colour code your notes after you've written them down to help you review your notes quickly during a later study session.

How to Use the Highlighting Note-Taking Method

How to Take Notes Using the Highlighting Method

  1. Preview the text: Before you highlight or make notes on anything, look through the textbook chapter or the article and notice key features. These can include headings, bold words, charts, graphs, images, and end of chapter questions. Use this information to form an idea of what your readings will focus on.
  2. Know your purpose: Set a purpose for your reading before you start. What do you need to be able to know or do after you finish your reading? Keep that purpose in mind and check to see you've reached it by the end of your reading.
  3. Choose your highlighting colours wisely: How many colours will you use while doing your readings? Which colour will represent key words or terms, definitions, examples, etc.? Create a brief legend that describes what each colour means to you before you start highlighting your text.
  4. Read slowly and highlight sparingly: Read to the end of a paragraph or section before you highlight anything. Stop and think about what you've read and determine what you need to remember. Limit yourself to highlighting one sentence or phrase per paragraph.

Pros & Cons of the Highlighting Method


  • Great approach for students who use visual cues to recall information.
  • Fastest approach to picking out key information while reading.
  • Excellent method to prepare students for seminars or discussions—allows students to focus on re-reading annotations right before a seminar or lab discussion.


  • Students could highlight too much of their text and lose sight of which information is most important.
  • Encourages reading quickly or skimming through text without stopping to ask questions or process reading.
  • Students might need to re-read texts if they also didn't convert their highlighted notes to study notes.