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Note-taking strategies

Developing good note-taking techniques takes time and practice.

Why should I take notes?

  • You should take notes to briefly summarize the main points of the lecture.
  • You should include sufficient details and examples so you can later recall and understand main concepts.
  • You can show relative importance and order between the separate ideas presented in the lecture.

Strategies for improving note-taking

  1. Taking notes helps students organize information. Here are several organizational tips:
    • Keep notes from each class in a separate notebook or section of a binder.
    • Have a folder with pockets for handouts from each class.
    • Date each set of lecture notes.
  2. Read all the assigned material before attending class.
    • Pre-reading will help you identify all the areas to be covered in the lecture.
    • Reading the information before class will make the lecture a review of the information.
    • Reading the material before class will help you identify material that needs further clarification.
    • Write down questions about unclear information to ask about in class.
  3. Sit near the front of the class where you have a clear view of the board and you can hear all the information from the instructor. Sitting at the front of the room locates most distractions behind you and out of your range of vision. Therefore, it will be easier to concentrate on the material being presented.
  4. Write down all the information that is written on the board no matter how insignificant it may seem. It may be a clue to material covered later in the lecture.
  5. A spiral notebook or binder that opens sideways has distinct note-taking advantages. Taking class notes on the right page leaves the left side available to add additional information pertinent to the topic. This information may be covered in a later class, a review session, a study group, or when comparing your notes with a friend.
  6. Listen closely to hints given during a lecture that signify important information. To demonstrate that important material is being discussed, the instructor may speak louder, speak more slowly, walk around the room, write clue words on the board, use hand gestures for emphasis, or say, "This material is vital to understanding this topic."
  7. Use your best handwriting to make your notes clear and easy to review.
  8. If the material is difficult to understand, leave empty lines between your notes that you can use to fill in with additional clarification.
  9. Develop a shorthand writing style to signify words or phrases. This technique is a great time-saving device that will enable you to not fall behind when taking notes.
  10. Listen closely for main ideas and topic sentences. It is not necessary to write down every word that is spoken during lecture. Practice finding the essential information in a topic by taking notes from news show presentations.
  11. Ask the professor if you may tape his/her lecture. This is a good study aid when reviewing and editing your notes.
  12. Always review your notes within 24 hours. This will prepare you for attending the next lecture and will enhance retention.

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