Effective Notemaking

[Back] [Home] [Who to talk to] [Study Skills] [Library] [Things to do] [Regulations] [Welcome]

Notes are more than simply scribbles or doodles taken during a lecture; especially if you hone your note-making technique. Notes are an investment for your studies; they are the most important resource in your study, as they demonstrate your subject synthesis. Note-making is different to note-taking (Race, 2003) in that making notes is an activity that you engage with in order to further your own understanding and without handout materials. This section will not look at the various ways of note-making, as you must decide for yourself which methods you find most useful; but will instead look at the effective and ineffective facets of note-making, which you can implement or avoid in your own process.

Tips for effective note-making

Click here to access the Study Skills guide to Standardising Your Notes

Effective notes

Try this…

Can be filed or stored for later use i.e. revision for exams, writing assignments

If you store your notes electronically, use a spreadsheet to record the location of your notes. Then you can link your reading to lectures by themes

Copy down essentials only, not just what you see on the board

Capture key themes and words and after the lecture, see if you can produce a summary of the lecture in 5 minutes

Put things into your own words

Unless it is a key quote/word that is subject specific, write information in an abbreviated, even colloquial style. Your notes only need to work for you!

Use abbreviations to help you take notes quickly and effectively

Develop your own shorthand; create a ‘glossary’ in your notebook and add any abbreviations or acronyms you have devised in there to save redefining them

Experiment with page layouts for example leaving wide margins or deliberate gaps for additional content at a later point

Number your notebook pages so you can link ideas and concepts by referring to page numbers or leave space for a ‘summary’ (see the Cornell Method)

Use a ‘system’ for making important things stand out in your notes – and stick to it!

Highlight key readings in one colour, keywords in another colour, and things to follow up in another colour. Include a highlighting key so you can refer back to the meaning behind the colour

Write down your own thoughts and questions along the way

Use a symbol to indicate when something is your own thought or question, and revisit them after some additional reading or thought

Be selective about what you note down and make it clear when information doesn’t belong to you

Essential information might be the exact location of sources of information, key definitions or theorists, or things your lecturer has emphasised

Optimising handouts

You will likely be bombarded with handout materials during your time at University; whether in paper format or digitally. Handouts are a useful resource and shouldn’t be relied upon as a substitute for attending lectures or seminars; it is your engagement with handouts that makes them worthwhile!  Handouts can be used to guide your own thinking and are a valuable source to refer to when completing assignments or revising for exams. You can use your handouts to engage in your own critical thinking process; scribble down questions that you’d like to investigate or your own understanding of topics. What’s more, is you can apply the same system for filing notes with handouts too, to make them easier to retrieve.

Make the most of the materials your lecturers provide you with: they want you to succeed!

Useful sources for note-making