The first part of note taking while your reading is annotating. Annotating is making marks on what you're reading, either by underlining or highlighting, or my making comments in the margin. Obviously, you can only do this on a paper photocopy of what you're reading, but not on a library book or a journal.
So, in this case, this is the essay that we're having a look at. The essay title is "The floods of 2007 were primarily a result of ineffective government policy. Discuss." And this extract over here is a short paragraph on a report which is on the Direct Government website, which talks about the government's response to the 2007 floods.
So lets think about what we're going to do while we're annotating. The first step is to read the paragraph and decide where we would underline, highlight, make marks or arrows et cetera, so I'm going to gave you a short time to read the paragraph and make decisions.
Right, basically an important thing to start with would be to have a look for the main idea. "Overall the review finds that the Government responded well to the emergencies"; that's a positive statement. Okay, and an interesting thing here is "overall." Overall is a linking word, which tells you that there's going to be a conclusion following. "Overall", "in conclusion", any of those tell you that there's going to be an important concluding idea, and it happens to be part of the main idea of this paragraph.
Then if we read on a bit, it goes on to say "however", which is another linking word, but "however" is a linking word which tells us that the meaning of the sentence is going to change from positive to negative, or from negative to positive; there's going to be a change in meaning. So "the government responsed well to the emergencies...however Sir Michael concludes that the country was not as well prepared as it should have been", so here's a different kind of meaning. It was not as well prepared as it should have been, so here I'm underlining the negative statements in blue, and the positive statements in red.
Right, "he warns that the flood risk is here to stay, and the signs are that similar extreme events are likely, underlying the need for better preparation", so better preparation is assuming that there wasn't very good preparation before, so that's again a negative statement, so if you have a look at this paragraph, it's half positive about the government's role and its conclusion and half negative. It's interesting, so the government responded well, but it needs better preparation. These two ideas, if we link them, these two form the main idea. The government responded well but it needed to be better prepared.
All right, now lets look a bit more deeply at what is being said in here. Lets look at what evidence there is for what people are saying in this paragraph. Ok "overall the Review finds that the government responded well to the emergency, with effective collaboration between departments and agencies." The first thing I would think when I'm seeing that statement is where is the evidence? So, in our key, e=evidence. So how did they make this conclusion? "Sir Michael concludes that the country was not as well prepared as it should have been [upon which evidence?] ...he warns that 'flood risk is here to stay' [how does he know?] ...and the signs are that similar extreme events are likely [are they? Why? How does he know] ...underlying the need for better preparation."
So if you really analyse a document in the way that we have done here, you can see that annotating actually helps you to understand the meaning of what you're reading, and also helps you to show up holes and patches in the author's argument, and get a handle on the main idea. So basically by annotating a text as you read it, it helps you to interact well with the text, it keeps you thinking, and it produces a document which is actually more valuable than just the plain paper it's written on before you annotated it. It is the first step in the note taking process and it should improve your understanding of the text