Work Method Guide

Many of the methods and tools that work well with the Cégep à distance course format are addressed in this Guide, but there is no single recipe for success: some methods may work better for you, depending on the course(s) you are taking. As you will discover, it is important to choose the right tool for the subject matter. A method that works well in one course may be less effective in another.

Some of the methods presented here may be useful for Cégep à distance exams, which are all taken online. The exam questions are essay questions, and you will be allowed to use all your course materials to answer them, so it is crucial to organize your notes and exercises well.

Effective Reading and Note-Taking

a. Understanding the reading objective

Before you start reading a text, it is essential to have an objective in mind.

Here are some possible objectives:

  • Learn the subject matter
  • Draft a written text
  • Prepare for an exam

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Various reading objectives

Reading objective Explanation Example
Remember, learn Access facts Learn the year that Québec City was founded
Understand Gain a general idea about certain facts Understand cells and how they operate in the body
Apply Use facts and knowledge in a known and specific context Respond to a situation scenario to apply a theory to a specific situation
Analyze Identify and connect the various parts of a whole Excerpt various parts of a literary text in order to understand their meaning
Evaluate Judge facts or knowledge by applying criteria Write a critique that assesses theories
Create Use facts or knowledge in a different context to create an original product Create a project for a comprehensive assessment by using a variety of knowledge acquired through the college program

b. How to choose which strategy to use

Selection and development strategies:

The Simplest StrategiesHighlighting (underlining, circling, etc.) helps emphasize key words and key passages in the text. You can use different colours to place words in different categories. You can also draw boxes or circles around text to make them stand out. This can be a good strategy if used sparingly, but it becomes useless if you plan to refer back to the text weeks later, because you may have forgotten the context.

Selective note-taking can be done directly in the text or in a separate document, to clarify misunderstood words or passages, provide key words, sum up the idea and meaning of a passage or highlight concepts or definitions to retain.

Identifying the structure of the text (main ideas, arguments, thesis statements, etc.) is appropriate if the task is very general. It allows you to determine the main lines of a text. Identifying the structure can be helpful for an argumentative text, whether you are reading it or writing it.

Summary, paraphrase and synthesis are ways of conveying meaning in a limited number of words or repeating information in your own words, to understand it better. It is important to pay close attention to ensure you are not changing the meaning of the text.

Taking personal reading notes (Cornell model) calls for engagement with a text that requires interaction, such as notes indicating a need for clarification or the identification of a difference from prior knowledge. Personal notes lead to the development of predictions about the remainder of the text, questions or hypotheses, as well as the establishment of connections (within the text and also with knowledge external to it). You have to pay close attention to your thought mechanisms while reading and open up to the considerations the text provokes.

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Reading objectives

Reading objective Reading strategy Techniques
Remember or learn Selection Reread, copy, underline, circle, shade, take selective notes, write down main ideas
Understand Selection and development Select text, paraphrase, summarize, make predictions, take personal notes, formulate questions
Apply Development Paraphrase, summarize, make predictions, take personal notes, formulate questions
Analyze Organization Cluster ideas, establish hierarchies, create concept maps
Evaluate Organization and transfer Organize the text and the ideas, draw up analogies, find counterexamples, write in reader-friendly form
Create Transfer Draw up analogies, find counterexamples, write in reader-friendly form

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Cornell model

To make a reading note sheet, use a two-column table. At the top of the page, write your name, the course title, the date and the pages number of the reading.

Then divide the sheet into two columns. In the first column, write: “Study Zone” as the title and make a row for each of the following categories: keywords, main ideas, questions, notes to complete (afterward, during study/review). In the second column, write: “Reading Notes” as the title. Finally, at the bottom of the page, beneath the table, write: “Summary, references” (afterward, during study/review).

Information organization and transfer strategies:

Most Complex Strategies

These strategies can contribute to more in-depth learning.

Clustering calls on your ability to analyze the content of a text so you can identify its parts (structurally, possibly, but also the concepts and relevant subcomponents it contains). This technique is useful for reading texts that were not written for educational purposes or in which the mix of concepts and ideas is complex.

Creating concept maps or charts is similar to clustering but it allows you to establish and expose more types of connections. You must be familiar enough with the concepts explored in the text to be able to draw connections among them. In general, if you can create a chart, you have not only understood the text, but you are able to analyze and assess the information in it. You may also benefit from using concept maps in conjunction with other note-taking and synthesizing methods.

The difference between these methods is that concept maps put the main idea at the centre and the secondary ideas around it, whereas concept charts offer a hierarchy of all the ideas, connected by explanatory connector words.

According to Anik Lessard Routhier, from École branchée, concept maps and charts are great tools for exploring, planning, summarizing and reviewing. They allow you to build and structure your knowledge. They amp up brain capacity and foster better recollection of concepts (École branchée, 2015).

Here are some apps that can help you design concept maps and charts:

  • LucidChart
  • Mindmeister
  • WiseMapping
  • Inspiration 10

Example concept map for course 601-102-MQ: 

The technique of developing and assessing questions the text answers combines several reading strategies in order to test your understanding of the text. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Skim the text.
  2. Write out a few questions the text seems to answer.
  3. Read the text.
  4. Answer the questions you wrote.
  5. Revise the answers, referring to the text.

There are also note-taking apps. Whether you prefer handwritten or electronic notes, the important thing is to make good use of them.


With Evernote, you can create a notebook for each course and insert a separate note for each module. You can divide the content up using separators, organize it using charts and add images, drawings, attachments and more. You can also share your notes, if need be, and add reminders to review the content at specific times.

In brief, this app:

  • Is easy to use.
  • Lets you organize your notes effectively
  • Manages notes in different formats (audio clips, images, PDFs, etc.)
  • Is free, with storage space of 60 MB per month
  • Provides a catalogue of note templates

Exemple d'interface Evernote


As a Cégep à distance student, you have free access to OneNote, because it is part of Office 365.

This tool allows you to organize your notes and add charts, images, audio clips and mathematical equations. It also offers an immersive reader, so you can hear your notes read out loud.

Exemple d'interface OneNote

Laying the Conditions for Success

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Laying the Conditions for Success

Time of day

Study during the day or in the evening?

It is important to establish a study time in your schedule during the time of day when your concentration and production capacity are at their peak.

Planning short study periods and breaks fosters better concentration.

Place and ambiance

Study in silence or with background noise?

Find the place where you feel most comfortable studying. Some people prefer to study at their own kitchen table, and others prefer small, noisy cafés. If you are easily distracted, it’s better to study in a private, quiet space.

Emotional, physical and mental state You have to take care of yourself and maintain good energy in order to study, which is why it is important to recognize your limits and take breaks when needed (for example: 15-minute break after every hour of studying).
Social environment

Study alone or with a study partner?

Your social environment encompasses life-work-study balance. It’s important for the members of your family or household to be aware if you need time alone to focus and study.


Bélec, C. (2017) Pas à pas dans la lecture au collégial: une question de stratégies. La revue web sur la valorisation du français en milieu collégial. (in French)

Anik Lessard Routhier, École branchée (2015), (in French)

Leblanc, P. Prendre des notes selon la méthode Cornell, Université de Sherbrooke. (in French)