Note-Making and Critical Reading

Supporting Materials

  • Slides: Slides
  • Other materials: small whiteboard, whiteboard pens, selected journal article, ipads, note-taking techniques handout

Learning Outcomes

  • Critically analyse arguments within sources to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Assess how a particular source fits within the wider context of literature and existing knowledge
  • Develop effective strategies for note-taking/making in different situations

Suggested Online Resources

Note-Making: Capturing what counts

Being Critical: thinking, reading and writing critically

Session Content

Introduction: Ask students to recap what they learned from the last session. Describe how this session relates to and will build on that.

Activity (LO1): In groups, ask students to write down all the situations you make/take notes in university. Share one idea from each group to write onto the whiteboard.

Activity (LO1): As this session focuses on critical reading, inform students we will focus on reading and research (highlight other resources that can help with other notes). Ask each group to discuss and list what type of information they would record from academic reading when note-making for reading/research. Share on idea from each group on the whiteboard

Direct Instruction (LO1): Lead follow-up discussion on students ideas, with a focus on the need to record their own thoughts and ideas on a piece of reading (relate this to the answers given). Explain that this is the difference between note-making and note-taking. Note-Taking = passive, descriptive / Note-Making = active, critical. Remind students that to get the most out of reading, they must be critical — this will help when it comes to writing critically (which will be discussed in a later session).

Direct Instruction (LO3): Highlight the Record-Review-Reflect strategy as a good technique to help make sure notes are critical.

  • Record = Noting important facts, figures, stats, statements and quotes from a piece of reading
  • Review = connect notes to wider picture — things you already know, what you know about other sources and evidence
  • Reflect = generate own thoughts, interpretations and opinions.

We will use this strategy to critically read a journal article that has been chosen by the lecturer. Students will become familiar with the different steps, and will be introduced to different techniques and approaches that will help them with each step.

Direct Instruction (LO2 & LO3): Record
Introduce the importance of using a note-making strategy to ensure your notes are effective and you record the information that you need. Techniques to introduce:
- Cornell Notes
- KWL
- Sketch Notes
- Inflow
- Evernote

Activity (LO2 & LO3): Record
Students to use any of the note-taking techniques to record important information from the article (facts, figures, stats, quotes etc.). Identify and write down the overall aim or thesis statement of the article.

Activity (LO3 & LO4): Review
In pairs, students to read article again and record each other’s initial thoughts on the article. Focusing on:

  • what do you agree with?
  • What do you disagree with?
  • What is difficult to understand?
  • How does it connect to information/evidence you already know about?
  • What do you think is good about this paper?
  • What do you not like about this paper?

Swap pairing after 3 minutes, so the reader is now the scribe.

Get students back into larger groups/tables. Create a master-list of their initial thoughts and reactions to the paper on a white board.

Activity Follow Up: Led discussion to show students that all the reactions they have recorded are them ‘being critical’. When reading critically it is just as important to note down your own thoughts, ideas and opinions on the paper — this is your critical thinking. Don’t worry if your reactions/thoughts were different to others — this is normal, and does not mean you are ‘wrong’.

Direct Instruction (LO3 & LO4): Review
It can be daunting critiquing an established scholars work. But, it is important to remember that every academic text is made up of two main elements: 1) evidence 2) author’s interpretation/opinion of that evidence. It is your job to decide whether you agree with their interpretation and/or whether you believe the evidence is strong enough to support that interpretation. When reading it can help to identify and separate the evidence used from the author’s own ideas and interpretations. This may help you to see what types of evidence the author has used and how they have used it.

Activity (LO3 & LO4): Review
In pairs, students read through the article, highlighting evidence sentences in one colour and the author’s interpretation / analysis of evidence in a different colour.
Follow-up by asking if seeing the relationship between evidence and interpretation has mind the students change any of their initial reactions.

Activity (LO4): Reflect
In groups, students write the main argument or point of the article at the top of the whiteboard. Then, using all the critical notes they have made in previous tasks, write down whether they agree or disagree with this argument and why.

Direct Instruction (LO3): Recap the importance of moving beyond copying out (note-taking) and towards making your own critical interpretations of reading (note-making). Criticality check-list: Purpose / Context / Identify Main Argument / Understand.

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