Note making: Effective note making

Taking notes in lectures

Making notes is an important aspect of studying at university. Effective notes will:

  • help you to recall key points and relevant details about what you have heard in lectures or read
  • highlight key ideas of a text and compare these to others
  • identify relevant supporting details such as examples, explanations, diagrams and other material
  • summarise lengthier texts.

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What you decide to note, and in how much detail, will depend to some extent, on your subject and what you need the notes for. If the information in the lecture is not available anywhere else, or very difficult to obtain from other sources, then your notes will need to be as detailed as possible. However if the information is readily available in books or journals (especially a set textbook for the subject), then you should focus on the points or issues that are highlighted by the lecturer.

There are some common features that you might need to note down:

  • main points as emphasised by the lecturer
  • topic specific terms, phrases and key words
  • definitions
  • examples
  • diagrams
  • formulae (and their derivations if appropriate)
  • calculations
  • relevant questions and answers.

Immediately after the lecture (or as soon as possible and certainly within twenty-four hours) review your notes. This will enable you to:

  • identify any gaps in the information and add in any new information that you might have thought of since the lecture
  • formulate questions that need further research
  • highlight key points
  • add relevant references and link them to the main points of the lecture.

Store your notes in a loose-leaf folder, or a 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.

 

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