Take Better Notes When Reading Non-Fiction With HQ&A


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 30, 2023

4 min read


Take Better Notes When Reading Non-Fiction With HQ&A

Note-taking is an essential skill for effective learning and retention of information. When reading non-fiction, it is crucial to have a note-taking technique that allows you to capture valuable insights and concepts. One such technique is Highlight, Question, and Answer (HQ&A) notes, which require active reading and learning.

The HQ&A technique involves highlighting important passages or ideas, formulating a question that the passage answers, and then writing a compressed version of the passage in your own words. This method not only helps you retain the information in the short term but also promotes long-term retention and recall.

This technique is similar to the Feynman Technique and Spaced Repetition, which emphasize active learning and information retrieval. Many people mistakenly believe that passive learning, such as attending lectures, is the best way to learn. However, actively retrieving and explaining what you understand in your own words is crucial for deep comprehension and retention.

By using the HQ&A technique, you create flashcard-style notes that can be revisited and reviewed over time. These notes serve as a valuable resource for future reference and can be reused and remixed to deepen your understanding of the subject matter.

If you prioritize shallow depth and quick exploration of a topic, the Jump Note technique may be more suitable. However, if you want to delve deeper into a subject and truly understand it, the HQ&A technique is the way to go.

Reading is not just about absorbing someone else's thoughts; it is about developing our own original thoughts. Therefore, our note-taking system should be designed to facilitate this process. By formulating questions based on the information we read, we force our minds to actively engage with the material and make connections. This shift from passive to active reading is what makes the information stick and transforms it into actionable insights.

When using the HQ&A technique, it is important to remember that the questions don't need to be overly complicated or exhaustive. They should simply capture the core takeaway or insight you want to derive from the text. The goal is not to use every note we take but to store ideas for future reference and to strengthen our thinking skills by exploring intellectual rabbit holes.

Now that we understand the benefits and process of HQ&A note-taking, let's explore a case study that exemplifies the power of effective note-taking and strategic decision-making.

A Startup Case Study: Chegg

Chegg, a company founded in 2001, initially aimed to be the "Craigslist for college students." However, it struggled to gain traction until it introduced textbook rental services in 2008. This decision marked a turning point for the company.

Chegg's success can be attributed to its adoption of the GLEe (Get big, lead, and expand) Model. By providing students with the option to rent textbooks at a fraction of the cost of buying new ones, Chegg offered overwhelming value. Physical books had advantages that eTextbooks couldn't match, such as the ability to highlight text using a marker.

To further enhance its offerings, Chegg implemented the DHM (Delight, Hard to copy, Margin-enhancing) Model. This involved enabling students to buy and sell class notes and creating a "student graph" that encompassed all courses, textbooks, and content. Leveraging this data, Chegg developed unique personalization technology, including a social newsfeed based on the student graph.

While some experiments, such as building a Facebook-style feed, did not gain traction, Chegg's CEO, Dan Rosensweig, prioritized growth and focused on a rolling 4-quarter product roadmap. This roadmap outlined strategies for expanding Chegg's services, including step-by-step textbook solutions, homework help, tutoring, and flashcards, which eventually culminated in the creation of a subscription service called "Chegg Study."

Incorporating the HQ&A note-taking technique, students and professionals can apply the lessons from Chegg's case study to their own endeavors. By highlighting key concepts, formulating questions, and writing concise answers, they can distill valuable insights and strategies for their own growth and success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace active reading: Instead of passively consuming information, actively engage with the material by formulating questions and summarizing key points. This will enhance your understanding and retention of the information.
  • 2. Build a comprehensive note-taking system: Incorporate the HQ&A technique into your note-taking routine to create flashcard-style notes that promote long-term retention and recall. Use these notes as a valuable resource for future reference and to strengthen your thinking skills.
  • 3. Apply case studies to your own endeavors: Look for case studies or success stories in your field of interest and analyze them using the HQ&A note-taking technique. Extract insights and strategies that can be applied to your own projects or goals, and incorporate them into your decision-making process.

In conclusion, effective note-taking is a crucial skill for learning and retaining information. The HQ&A technique, along with active reading and engagement, can significantly enhance your understanding and retention of non-fiction texts. By applying this technique and analyzing case studies, such as the Chegg case study, you can derive valuable insights and strategies for your own growth and success. Remember to embrace active learning, build a comprehensive note-taking system, and apply the lessons learned from case studies to your own endeavors.

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