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Assignment Planning: Take & Make Notes

Not everything that you retrieve from your searches will be wholly relevant to your assignment.  For example, a book may only have one chapter or section relevant to your topic or a journal article may address a certain concept but not your entire topic.  These sources can still be useful to you.

Active Reading

When reading the text you should take notes from it that relate to your assignment.

This is called Active Reading:

  1. If the text is very difficult to understand read it through once to get a general idea of the content.
  2. Then, on a second reading underline key phrases (NOT if it’s a Library book!) and/or write down notes on your notepad.
  3. Take notes from it in the form of keywords.  These keywords are the building blocks for your paraphrased version of the original text.
  4. Make sure you write down of the bibliographic details (e.g. author and page no.) as you will need this for your reference.
  5. The key is to extract information or evidence from the source which will help you to fulfil the assignment brief.  

1. Mind Maps

Using the Mind Map that you made earlier, add notes that you took during your reading to each of the key themes identified (with the reference details alongside).  Another option is to create a separate Mind Map for each article and then see how each of them relates to your assignment.


Creating Mind Maps

Pen & Paper

Create mind maps using lots of colours and pictures as well as words.

Mind Map Software

Software and applications such as XMind, FreeMind, iMindMap are great for helping you organise your notes and thoughts.


2. Table of Notes

If you don’t like using Mind Maps try using a table to arrange you notes.  You can use the themes that you identified in your earlier mind map to create the table’s columns.

If you find a sentence or paragraph that you would like to use in your assignment exactly as it is, then copy it down verbatim (word for word) and make a note that it is an exact quote – use must reference it as a quote in your assignment. 

Sample Table -  Topic: Health & Well-Being

Source Theme 1 - Diet Theme 2 - Exercise Theme 3 - Stress Theme 4 - Sleep

Murphy, H. and Smith, T. (2008) Key concepts in health and well-being. London: Sage Publications.

  • fruit & veg
  • 5 a day
  • (p. 12)
  • balanced diet
  • variety in diet (p. 15)
  • connected with overall mental health (p. 45)
  • work / life balance (p. 51)
  • identify what is important (pp/ 51-52)
  • stress & sleep: vicious cycle (p. 78)


  • tackle with relaxation and sleep techniques (p. 80)

Stevenson, A. and O’Neill (2012) Physical activity and diet: the key to outer and inner health. Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Public Health, 35(2), pp. 146-155. doi:10.1111/j.1753-6405.2008.00192.x

  • avoid too much alcohol consumption (p. 148)
  • wheat & dairy intolerances (testing available) (p. 151)

Quote: "the costs of work days lost because of the chronic health problems that are associated with both inactivity and overweight” p. 153

  • mix of cardio & resistance training (p. 150)
  • warm up v important (p. 150)
  • 3 times a week (p. 151)
  • build into your day (p. 151)


  • physical & mental illness
  • anxiety (pp. 154-155)


  • meditation 
  • activities that relax, e.g. reading, walking, etc. (pp. 154-155)
  • 33% of life 
  • 8 hrs per day
  • regular sleeping pattern is best (pp. 152-153)

It is important to learn how to use quotes and paraphrase correctly in your assignment in order to avoid plagiarism.  Check out the Library’s referencing online tutorials, guides and classes for more details.



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