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Note-Taking 101: Home

This guide provides assistance and helpful tips on how to take effective college notes.

It is helpful to prepare by taking a little time in advance of the lecture to orientate yourself:

  • Look back at the module overview to check how does this lecture link to others?
  • Revisit your notes from previous lectures to refresh your memory. (Creating quick summaries after each lecture can speed up this process). 
  • Prepare any notetaking templates to use in the lecture (on paper or laptop) - If you have access to PowerPoint slides before the lecture, highlight key topics and create a list of subheadings that shows how the lecture moves from A to B.  In your template, create subheadings, grids or mind-maps with key topics and subheadings to create a template for notetaking in the lecture.
  • Spend 30 minutes reading (independent research) around the topic of the next lecture to get a general overview of the content. The reading list in the module guide is a good starting point.
  • It can also be useful to make a list of questions that you want the lecture to answer, and to follow up with the lecturer or seminar tutor if these are not answered in the lecture.

Strategies for taking good lecture notes

Take well-organized notes in outline form
This will help you to identify the main ideas. Start large, work down to details.

Take notes in complete thoughts, but abbreviate, reduce, and simplify
Don’t try to write the profs lecture word for word. 

Separate and label the notes for each class
Start a new set of notes for each day, clearly separated from the day before; it makes your notes easier to study.

Make your notes easy to read
It’s easier to study your notes if you can read them.

Start taking notes when the professor starts talking
Don’t wait for a big thought to strike you. You could easily become distracted and miss the big thought.

Isolate and learn the specialized vocabulary
Write down and highlight difficult or new words. Write definitions, or look them up later.

Separate facts from opinion and add your own ideas
Note what is fact and what is the professor’s opinion. Add your own thoughts; write notes directly to yourself.

Include pictures, diagrams and other visuals
Copying diagrams or other visuals helps you to understand concepts later. We tend to think in terms of pictures.

Take notes on discussion
Take notes when meeting with your tutor. Use notes you’ve taken in lecture to generate discussion with your tutor group.

Always attend lectures to develop a complete set of notes.

(University of Washington)

Director of Library Services

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Angel Pridgen, MLS, M.Ed.
Susie McClure Library
American Baptist College
1800 Baptist World Center Drive, Nashville, TN 37207

Note-making is part of the research process, helping you to understand, consider and structure information.

Good note-making helps you to avoid unintentional plagiarism by carefully and appropriately recording the details you need to use references correctly. It also enables you to focus on the important and relevant information, and to understand and make connections with other materials. Note that copying and pasting onto your computer is NOT note-making: you need to process what you read, think about the purpose for reading it, and write down only what is important.

(University of Reading)