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- You probably won’t be used to being asked to read articles and books in detail in an academic context. To do this requires a very definite skill that may take you some time to develop. The aim is to understand and make notes on the key arguments, and to use evidence in the book/article, or even your own ideas, to support these arguments. Your notes should not be so detailed that you reproduce half the original, nor should they be so thin that you won't be able to discover anything in your notes when you come back to re-reading them at Christmas and Easter time. Above all be critical of what you read – you don't have to agree with everything that is said, nor should you expect to do so. This is the first step on the way to beginning to think for yourself, which may well be one of the most important skills that you will acquire while you are here.
- A more difficult objective relates to achieving a balance between note-taking on the question set and note-taking on more general ideas that you ought to know. This will always be extremely difficult, but will come with experience. You should note down additional points that seem to you to be important. This will also get easier as you get further into the year.
- When you are making notes, try to do it in point form and label them accordingly. You may wish to note down key (but short) quotations that could be reproduced in essays. The use of quotations shows that you have read key authors, and that you have absorbed and are able to summarise their arguments. When reading texts, note down the author to whom a particular idea can be ascribed and the year of the publication in which that idea can be found. This is very important if only because it will help to clarify exactly who says what and therefore help you to structure and defend your ideas. Information about how to cite quotations and authorities can be found in the later section on Referencing.