Books, College, High School Advice, Home

How to Take Notes from Non-Fiction Books

We all encounter the dreaded essays, projects, and test on non-fiction books during our school years. This summer I had to read How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster and then use five of the chapters in the book to analyze a piece of classic literature in an essay (I chose Pride and Prejudice) for my AP literature class. For anyone else facing an assignment like this, I thought I would share how I take notes and make use of the book I’m assigned, so here are my tips to help you get the most from your book!


Use Sticky Notes

After you read a chapter, write down a summary of it on a sticky note. Also include the main points that you could use in an essay or project. Stick it onto the first page of the chapter and it’ll make it easy to see later on if there’s anything in this chapter that you need. If you need to write references of page numbers where these main points are explained, put them here.


As you work through the chapters, underline sentences or quotes that seem important. Later, when you have your main points established you can look through these underlines phrases to see if any of them can provide support or evidence. If you don’t like writing in books, you can always just write down line and page numbers on a sticky note to keep track of them, but I prefer to actually see them on the page.

Fold corners

Once again, not everyone feels okay doing this with books, but I like to fold the corners of pages where I have underlined quotes. It makes it easy to go back and find them without having to do a lot of writing while I’m trying to read.

Cross off your main points as you go

Once you have a list of main points in each chapter and underlined quotes, you can create a master list of things you want to include in your essay or project. You can just cross of the points you aren’t going to use on the sticky notes or you can pull the ones you want to use and put them all onto a separate list. I also like to cross them off in a separate color once I have actually used them in my essay or project. Having a master list gives you an outline of sorts which makes it easier to effectively organize your work.

Is there anything that helps you get the most out of a non-fiction book? Share in the comments!