Lectures and tutorials
Making notes is an important aspect of studying at university. Good notes are effective notes. Effective notes:
- highlight key points
- identify relevant supporting details such as examples, explanations, diagrams and other material
- separate key points from supporting details.
Thus your note-making strategies should be designed to help you remember key points and relevant details.
The sorts of notes that you will take will vary according to whether you are:
- attending lectures
- participating in tutorials
- working in science laboratory practicals.
In almost all cases, what you get out of a lecture, tutorial, classroom or laboratory practical will depend on what you put into it. This means that you have to be an active learner. To be an active learner you will need to develop effective listening skills so that you will be able to know what to note.
Lectures are a key feature of university teaching. In broad terms, the principal purpose of a lecture is to provide you with information in an efficient, well-structured way. More particularly, lectures:
- present information and research on specific topics
- highlight areas of importance and interest within the topic
- work through some of the areas you are likely to find confusing
- suggest sources of further information; provide references and how to find them.
Before the lecture
- be on time for the lecture.
- complete any required reading (including handouts of lecture summaries) before you attend the lecture. This will help you understand the lecture better and be more prepared to take notes. Re-read your notes from the previous weeks’ lectures. This will remind you of what has already been covered.
- make sure that you have sufficient paper, pens/pencils for note taking or any other equipment that you may need.
During the lecture: taking notes
What you decide to note, and in how much detail, will depend, to some extent, on your subject and your specific interests. The amount of detail that you will need to include for your notes will depend on whether the information is readily available elsewhere (i.e. in lecture handouts, books, or journals). The note layout that you use will also determine the amount of detail that you include.
After the lecture
Review your notes. This will help you to recall the lecture, identify any gaps in your notes and add anything that you think needed adding. Store your notes in a loose-leaf folder, or a two (or more) ring binder, so that you can move the pages around as well as add any new material such as handouts and other reference matter.
It is a good idea to revise your notes on a regular, ongoing basis, say for five to ten minutes once a week. Each time you skim through your notes the material will become a little more firmly embedded in your memory.
Tutorials are meetings of smaller groups of students to discuss specific topics related to the subject matter of the course. The key focus of tutorial groups is the interactive, participatory nature of the discussion. Tutorial discussions rely for their success on what you do before and during a tutorial. The role of the tutor is to facilitate and encourage the exploration of the relevant issues and problems.
Before the tutorial
- read the required articles or chapters as set out for your tutorial topic in your subject guide.
- think about the topic and formulate some basic ideas that you can contribute to the tutorial discussion about the topic.
During the tutorial: Listen to other tutorial participants and contribute your ideas to the discussion. Ask questions. Do not leave the tutorial feeling confused.
After the tutorial: Write down any notes of comments or ideas that you think are important to remember. Add these to your other subject notes.
e-learning studios (Common Units classes)
The format for classroom learning differs from lectures and tutorials in that while it is more interactive than a standard lecture, the learning experiences are organised by the lecturer. But like lectures and tutorials, it is important that you are on time for the class and complete any reading or other tasks that you have been asked to do before the class begins.
Practicals provide the opportunity for students to observe and manipulate materials and give insight into scientific methods and processes as well as scientific knowledge.
Before the practical, complete any required reading and ensure you have any necessary equipment necessary. During the practical, ensure that you listen to and follow the lecturer’s instructions. Your notes should cover:
- the aim of the practical
- safety instructions
- details about the equipment and materials used
- details about the method that you used
- the results of the experiment or exercise
- important incidental suggestions made by the demonstrator
- important references that are relevant for your experiment or exercise.
After the practical, write up the results of your laboratory or practical session as soon as possible. This will ensure that what you did in the session will still be fresh in your mind.