I am very interested in Physics and I want to read as much as I can. Most people, including my teachers, advise me to take notes as I read. But I find this very difficult. I can concentrate only on one thing at a time -- whether that's reading or making notes. When I concentrate on reading then usually the notes that I make are of very bad quality and eventually I lose interest in reading. When I focus on reading then usually I read particular content from various resources and I find this very fascinating. On the other hand, if I focus on taking notes then usually I lose interest in reading.

How can I get rid of this habit of mine? How can I take notes effectively?

  • 3
    Consider reading "How to read a book". – Jorge Leitao Jun 3 '15 at 18:24
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    Certain pieces of advice are not necessarily good for everyone: there are those who take notes, and those who don't. For example, I'm one who doesn't take notes: I read a book or an article and that's it; I also took very few notes during my years at university So, you should first try to understand if you really need to take notes or not. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 3 '15 at 18:25
  • Look up the SQ3R method. – Bob Brown Jun 3 '15 at 23:32
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    See also How to Read Mathematics. I think much of the advice contained therein applies to physics as well as mathematics. – J W Jul 26 '15 at 6:07

I tend to have problems documenting-while-reading as well. What tends to work for me is either:

  1. Read all of the resources on your topic that you find, and then write a summary of what you've learned immediately afterward. Try to have enough detail that someone following behind you can make sense of what you write. (In a few days, you will be that someone!)

  2. If I have a specific need (say, to defend a point I'm trying to make), then I'll quickly jot down bullet points while I research, but no more than that. Then when I'm finished with my research, write the summary described above.

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    Also, since it's physics, consider a keeping a journal of key points and formulas and explanations of them that make sense to you. (This is similar to some of those lectures that have the rule "when you see an equation, clap.") In other words, use your writing to foment understanding, not just to copy down. – Dave Kanter Jun 3 '15 at 22:49

There are a bunch of resources available online. I hope you have gone through those. I also have faced similar issues as yours and these resources were of great help.

Many Universities know that students often struggle with such issues and they offer help. For example:

  1. Learning Strategies Center, Cornell University
  2. Library, Georgia Tech and Communication Center, Georgia Tech
  3. Academic Skills Resources, University of Melbourne
  4. Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  5. Student Success Resources, College of Natural Science, Michigan State etc.

If you want I can provide actual links. I have named only a few (those I have looked up and have benefited from). There are plenty other universities that offer such help.

PS. They won't be able to help you personally if you are not a student there but there are plenty of reading materials, tutorial videos, templates available for free.

Coursera has a series of courses offered by the University of Sydney titled 'Academic Skills for University Success'. You can check that out too :)

EDIT: To be more specific to your questions, the following are some of the readings I would suggest:


If you read a paper book and use a paper notebook for notes, try to switch to digital. Might be you find this variant more convinient, just because you could copy and paste some quotes from book to note-taking app and you will feel, that you could easily change you notes (edit or make some structure from

Just want to share my post on Medium in case you want to take a look at different digital note taking methods and my thoughts about thinking spaces in digital


  • 1
    If you use digital media for anything you want to keep around, make sure you have a backup plan. You might also want a plan for the fact that some media become obsolete and some cloud services just disappear. Paper lasts forever, more or less, if you keep it dry - good paper anyway. – Buffy May 8 at 20:52
  • Yep, I agree with you) All methods have drawbacks. – gmdidro May 8 at 21:40

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