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Read & Take Notes

Effective reading

You have found the resources to help you write a good essay from the Library Catalogue, Databases, Subject Guides, and your Lecture notes, the next step is to:

  • Skim read to locate main ideas
  • Find answers to your research questions
  • Take brief notes

Effective reading

  • Effective reading involves developing a way for approaching different texts.
  • Use the structure of the writing to help you select and understand relevant parts of the text.
  • Set goals for your reading and make decisions about how you will approach the text.

Adapt the following strategy to suit your needs…

Thinking & Asking Read critically

The purpose of critical thinking is to become engaged in a dialogue with the ideas that we encounter in our listening, reading and writing, so that we can summarise, analyse, hypothesise, and evaluate these.

As a critical reader, you bring your own beliefs, values, experiences and prior knowledge to the material that you read or hear. Critical reading (writing and listening) involves asking questions about yourself as the reader, the author or speaker and the material itself.

Get into the habit of consciously applying questions to your reading. You don't always need to know the answers to these questions, but rather, by asking such questions, you are practicing an important skill in your university education — thinking.

  • For example, the question "What is a talangofua person?" asks for a definition for a specific term. The thinking you do to answer that question is summarising or defining.
  • How can this concept be applied to your understanding of the Tongan language and current world-views?

Establish a Focus

  • Reading with a clear purpose will help you to concentrate and stay focused on the task.
  • Think about the questions that you want to answer or address in your research and read with those in mind.

Preview the Text

  • Look through the text to find out what it contains and which sections are relevant to your focus.
  • What elements of the text could you use to find out what it is about?
    e.g. headings, introduction, words written in bold, pictures/graphs etc
  • Look for keywords and phrases that are closely connected to your topic/purpose.
  • Make decisions about how you will approach this text
  • Decide how much to read in each sitting (for example, 30 minutes), make it achievable

Note taking

  • Skim, scan or study read, depending on your purpose.
  • Skim? Read the introduction and conclusion. Move your eyes quickly down the text taking in headings and topic sentence of each paragraph.
  • Scan? Quickly search for keywords or for one specific piece of information.
  • Study read? Read closely and actively, underlining and making margin comments. Take notes or write a short summary afterwards.
  • Skip? Having previewed the text you find that it is not relevant for your purposes right now.
  • Look for answers, ideas or connections relating to your questions.
  • Underline relevant sections of the text or jot brief comments in the margin.
  • Engage critically with the material. Ask questions about it, jot down any ideas or examples that pass through your mind; they may be useful later.
  • Read for what you do understand, not for what you don’t. Keep moving forward; your comprehension will increase! If you don’t understand a word or idea, put a question mark in the margin and come back to it later.
  • Record the reference details of each text - See Avoid Plagiarism under Find Your Readings for more information. 


  • Try to write a summary or review of the text without looking at it. Check that it is accurate.
  • Think about whether you have achieved your purpose. Have your notes answered your questions?
  • Avoid copying out long quotes; instead, paraphrase the important points and write down keywords.


Paraphrasing and Quoting

A paraphrase is your own version of ideas and information expressed by someone else.
If you are using other people's writing, paraphrase this in your own words or quote directly within your assignment or essay and then cite the source to avoid plagiarism.
Examples on how to paraphrase and quote are available from Referen©ite.

A summary is less detailed than a paraphrase, rephrasing the main points.
A quotation is the original version exactly in terms of wording, spelling, paragraphing etc.

  • Use quotes for impact or when the author(s) has said it better than you.
  • At other times paraphrase the ideas you want to use.
  • Integrate the information, ideas, etc smoothly into your essay
Example of Direct Quotation
"In my view, the predominant theme that Queen Salote is concerned with in her poetry, whatever the specific occasion she was writing about, is the celebration of her ‘uhinga or identity. This is expressed through references to the chiefly kinship connections of herself and her family. In Tongan this practice is called laukainga , the reciting of kinship connections or hohoko." (Taumoefolau & Wood-Ellem, 2004, p.107).
Example of Paraphrasing the Quotation
Taumoefolau (2004) argues that Queen Salote’s identity or ‘uhinga is embedded within her songs and poems. This can be seen in her constant referral to herself and her chiefly kinship ties or laukainga throughout her work.



Self quiz

Well done! Have a go at the quick quiz to see how much you remember.

Some questions may have more than one correct answer.

1. If you are not getting enough results in your search you could

2. If you are getting too many results in your search you could

3. How can you locate the full text of an article you are interested in reading?

4. What are the names of three tools you can use to store and manage your references?

5. What is the name of the website that can help you with your referencing?

6. Why is it important to cite and reference other people's work correctly?

7. Which is the main referencing style used by the University of Auckland Centre for Pacific Studies courses?

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