Attention: How To Take Notes For An Essay

How To Take Notes For An Essay

I am wondering how students and adults can take notes for writing an essay. A composition or essay may well be the first lengthy writing piece we all learn. Though what you say is more important than how you say in my opinion, that does not mean we cannot learn to improve in the way we can go about writing an essay by taking notes. Notes are just short ideas or points to help remind us or others to begin with, but after taking numerous points, we can expand to holding the main ideas for a more detailed essay, article, project or even a book.

How to take notes for an essay

  • Form a convincing main idea based on credible logical supports 
  • Write one or a few short points for each paragraph
  • Keep a logical order from top to bottom so the essay makes sense
  • Follow a structured template (as below) to keep organized
  • Contemplate over a longer time (if available) to note down more and better ideas

The most important element in writing a successful essay is the quality of the content. It must make logical sense and demonstrate critical thinking. Not writing out of the point is just the beginning. A good writer should provide what the reader wants and if possible beyond. The author of the essay may take short notes to help keep on track, arrange and remind him of the important ideas. I hope you can see the value of learning to take notes for an essay, please read on…

Form a convincing main idea based on credible logical supports 

To provide a fair and hopefully correct reasonings to an argument, we should have supports that makes sense. Strong supports can come from undisputed logical deductions of a chain of causes and resulting effects. One familiar type may be a narrative of what happened in an incident and every witness chipped in their coherent and truthful testimonials backed with evidence. More valid points than less will be more convincing, just as a larger statistically experimental size will provide for a more accurate result.

Think of as many supports as you can come up with, note them down and figure out how they may all help in constructing your main argument or statement. Remember we should have convincingly credible evidence or logical reasoning to back up our argument.

Ponder upon the main and important supportive reasonings first. I personally prefer to tackle the difficult part in the beginning.  Take your essay notes in bullet points format so you have an overview structure of how your essay look. Start asking obvious questions such as are there enough good points to support my main statement idea? Are the points relevant, related and make sense? Know that sometimes we have ideas when we write or at times there are triggers in our daily life that prompt or give us good hints or ideas. It is possible our personal viewpoint may shift when we learn more facts and reasonings.

Write one or a few short points for each paragraph

Once we have divided the solution into points and are able to focus on a point, it will be easier for the writer to elaborate more on each point. Each paragraph here can be just an explanation of one support in more detail and may provide more examples. Gather many points if you can. The more relevant and logical points you have to put forward, the more convincing your argument and reflects the effort you put into your writing.

Keep a logical order from top to bottom so the essay makes sense

The order may be chronological as in a narrative, numbered list in presenting evidence or follow any sensible flow that lets your reader understand clearly without a doubt in proving your points. This post itself also follows a top-down approach that explains the different points each.

Follow a structured template (as below) to keep organized

Essay Structure Template 

Introduction paragraph 

  • This may be why you come to write this essay and just a few sentences to describe the importance and benefits of this essay.

Main idea paragraph

  • Do not write out of point
  • This may be a response to a question asked or to state your argument
  • Be logical and demonstrate critical thinking in your writing

Paragraphs to elaborate on your main idea with details. 

  • This may span a few paragraphs, each with related points
  • This may include justifications with supportive evidence and reasonings
  • The main idea may have different parts, each to be explained in a paragraph
  • Integrate examples (optional). Offer examples if possible. They are good analogies to illustrate and substantiate a point quickly and even stir up intrigue among readers, especially if there is a story element to it. Comparisons work well too. Put them in only if appropriate and stay relevant to your cause

Conclusion paragraph

  • The concluding paragraph rounds up the discussion with closure but should imply the potential for future possibilities
  • Portraying here how this essay fits in like a puzzle of a bigger picture will also help your readers better understand and appreciate the meaning or benefit of your essay


  1. Include citations across your essays where appropriate or below the conclusion. Citation example format: Morem, S. (2005) or (Matthews, 1999). Paraphrase while crediting the authors’ ideas in citations. 
  2. This template is only a suggestion. You may modify it accordingly to your needs, for example, there may be a few main ideas and each idea paragraph starts with one idea followed by a couple of sentences about supporting evidence.

How To Take Notes For An Essay Template Image

Essay writing example in notes form

Topic: Money is the root of all evil.


  • I am pondering what should be the correct reasonings for this classic topic of discussion or hopefully at least a step closer to the truth
  • The purpose of this writing is to pinpoint or draw closer and attempt in the hope to address this popular question or assumption in the right way, and not circumvent or mislead by burying the reader with tons of related but useless information, half-truths, or even any completely irrelevant ideas that come to mind. Answer the question correctly to your ability first and related points of usefulness may come later if you have time but take note not to overdo it as your main good points may suffice to excel.

Main argument:

  • Money is not the root. 

Supportive reasonings:

  • An obsessive person may commit grievous actions against others just to have someone he/she desired. Is that not a crime?
  • An angry and revengeful man may plot against someone or even commit murder. Is that not evil?
  • An ignorant, prejudiced person may deprive others with different skin colors or country origin of equal opportunities or even commit genocide for personal egoistic pride, interest, and gain. Is that right?
  • All the above may not have anything to do with banknotes in essence.
  • Banknotes are made of paper or other materials, are these raw materials evil or it is the greed of people for money that drives them to commit heinous acts? If we remove a certain external entity from our lives, does that guarantee we will not have any bad or evil thoughts, speech, and deeds? 


  • Money is not the root of all evil. It is evil character qualities that propel people to evil deeds, not paper. 
  • The concept of money actually stems from trading – an instrument meant to promote fairness to all parties concerned, not for the opposite intentions. Again, it is the corrupted individual’s own greed that views money as a means for his/her twisted purpose.
  • Instead, we should learn to be better people by being generous, patient, unbiased, and so on. 

Related points:

  • I was also told there is no right or wrong answer. Again, I disagree. I understand an educator’s intention to encourage students to write. 
  • However, in this case, there is clearly a correct answer or at least this topic statement is a wrong assumption.
  • If right and wrong apply to a moral concern, money is not even the correct identification of moral nature. Paper and digital notes are physical tangibles or a type of financial instrument, not a character flaw. Different from apple and cat.

Note: The notes you take can be shorter, the above is just for illustration purposes. Once you have all the points down, elaborate them into full sentences and add on more ideas when you can as you write away.

On a side note, did you miss this post?   Inspiring Note-taking Apps For Linux (4 Evaluated)

Contemplate over a longer time (if available) to note down more and better ideas

It takes time to write even a single idea. And a good idea may not come at the right time in a preferred chronological order. Contemplate your topic with different angles and perspectives over time, and trust that your effort will pay off. Writing is also hard work. Some may portray it as fun and enjoyable, but it may not be all that at all times. Acknowledge the fact that we face writer’s block at one time or another. Just as a student has good and bad studying experiences. Writing (essay notes or otherwise) is a skill that improves over time, so you may yourself able to do more when you have more practice. 

Observe when and in which situations you can better think critically without distractions. Take advantage of these times with the right conditions to study or work. It may be different for everyone. Some may prefer an early bird morning fresh session, some after a cup of warm tea while others with inspirational background music. Also, learn your limits and stop when you feel tired and out of ideas, but be diligent to pick up and continue forth when ready.

Why take notes for an essay?

Take notes of our ideas before you forget them. You can decide which ones to keep or arrange them later. One idea may seem easy to grasp, but when multiplied to ten or even thousands as in a book series then altogether it becomes a collection of writing works.

I remember I was taught and did quickly scribbled away ideas on blank papers provided in examinations. I supposed that helped me not to forget the main answer ideas that come to mind when I read the questions. I hope this will help you too if you are a student. But these notes should take seconds only to take down. It is possible to take notes when the ideas came over time while you are busy with other questions. One exam technique is to read the main essay questions first (start with the most difficult ones), quickly take short notes of your opinion with support. Arrange them in a logical order.

For home essays, taking notes may help to stop procrastination. It is easier to get started with short sentences or points, after which you may keep going writing a paragraph and more. Plus good ideas can come intermittently after some contemplation on the topic, and taking point notes are a step towards essay completion. 

Tip for when to take notes: In the morning when you feel fresh and relaxed. By evening, you may be exhausted or burnout of ideas to write. It may be that you are often contemplating the same topic, even in your dreams, then jot down the ideas whenever you can.

Tips for taking essay notes to memory:

  1. Drink green tea in the morning before your essay to see if you experience an improved difference in physical and mental conditions. A study here (Schmidt, Hammann, Wolnerhanssen, Meyer-Gerspach, Drewe, Beglinger, Borgwardt. 2014) has beneficial findings between green tea and memory, even dementia.
  2. Brighten Spatial memory in essay notes technique: Visualise different keywords appearing at different appropriate locations (like landmarks on a map) of your essays like glowing brightly each word location from top to bottom. This can be effective when several ideas came up and you do not have time or tools to note them down yet. Follow the ‘illuminated’ words path trail to note down quickly when you can.


Please take a look at the different essay forms and styles on Wikipedia essay. This article may benefit more for those who had writing experience. Take particular note of the mentioned (my favorite) cause and effect in critically thinking about different causes and consequences. An essay article may incorporate different forms and styles to constitute a stronger argument.

Taking notes can be effective in getting your work done, be it an essay or even book writing. Notes are taken one at a time, but once they accumulate and even snowball into a long piece of writing, it will not look like a note that was started. All the posts here on are written mostly or completely in a note app Evernote. 

Also, never plagiarise other people’s work. Write original essays. Expound your own ideas and explain why they are reasonable and sensible in your own words. We may learn from others but make our own creative and new derivative works out of it. Be forthright and honorable. 

Learning how to write essays or compositions can open the door to a lifetime of writing. Many people write for a hobby or a living. A career in writing can be a journalist, author, technical writer, editor, screenplay writer, researcher, blogger, freelance writer, proofreader, etc.  

Write truthfully with kindness so may all be good people and be bestowed with love, light, and happiness in their lives. Good luck!

Related Questions

Is there a game to promote critical thinking or story writing?

60 Seconds What’s Your Story is a board game (Age 12+) that can inspire and kickstart a game fun experience by telling stories.

Dr. Eureka Speed Logic Game (Age 8+) can help make logical thinking a fun process to associate with. It is also a family or play-yourself game.

10 critical thinking card games (Age 8-10) by Elaine Richard. She also has 10 vocabulary and 10 reading comprehension card games too. This may be more for classroom activities. 

All are available on Amazon.

How to write a better essay?

Personally, I would think the writer has to demonstrate an in-depth understanding and provide thoughtful insight into the discussion. The essay may be both informative with factual sources and reasonings but also inspirational with words of encouragement or empathy. It may also be an essay where the writer shares a personally emotional story and a heartfelt lesson he/she wishes to share for the benefit of others. An essay with an unexpected twist in a realistic story that captures the reader’s attention and yet underlines an outstanding moral quality also qualifies in my opinion. 

How to write an essay introduction?

This can be stating the reasons for and importance of why you are writing this essay. Providing a background to this writing also works. Perhaps a short discussion of the benefits will intrigue the reader to read on.

How to get an A on an essay?

I am not an expert grader but consider if the following makes sense. The essay should have to be outstanding, as it provides a personally unique relevant viewpoint, thought-provoking ideas or shows correct critical thinking uncommon amongst others. How would you grade As among hundreds of essay answers? Like everyone else, graders are just looking out for the quality of content.

Where to take notes?

A place you feel comfortable is preferred. Not too hot or cold, with access to basic necessities such as water, food, and a washroom. I would recommend also a quiet place with clean air and natural scenery for breaks. It can be your room, train seat, or your nearby cafes and tea houses. Cat lovers may seek out and stay close to cats whilst taking notes for study or work.

Is there an essay template for kids?

A simple Google docs free template here

How to translate an essay into English?

For those who write in a foreign language, you may use google translate for the basic translation of simple sentences. However, it is still recommended to get a human translation service for your essays such as Gengo or freelance Upwork translators.