Note -taking

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					                                       Lochaber College
  Note-Taking                        Study Skills Support

Note –taking

Contents                      Page

Self Evaluation               12

Purpose                       12

Characteristics               13

Get organised                 13

Abbreviations                 14

Taking Notes form a Text      15

Taking Notes form a Lecture   16

Reviewing Notes               17

                                                                 Lochaber College
   Note-Taking                                                 Study Skills Support

Self Evaluation

Regarding note-taking, have you faced any of these problems?

I can’t write down every word                      Yes   □          No   □

The tutor usually speaks too quickly               Yes     □        No   □

I find it difficult to listen and write at the same time     Yes   □No □

I don’t know what the key points are               Yes   □          No   □

My notes don’t mean much to me when I review them          Yes     □   No   □
Good note-taking is a skill which requires practice. Helpful hints to improve your
note-taking follow.

You may, during your college course need to make notes either from texts or
from lectures. There are no hard and fast rules about note-taking because they
are so personal. Your notes are for you alone to use and understand. They are
not required to be seen by anyone and therefore you do not need to be too
concerned with layout and neatness.

There are many ways to make use of notes.
These include:

   •   Aiding memory

   •   Basis for a written assignment

   •   Exam revision

   •   Rewriting and using them to refresh your memory before the next


                                                             Lochaber College
   Note-Taking                                             Study Skills Support

Good notes are:
Effective            To be effective, notes must serve your purpose.
Short                Notes that cover everything and do not miss anything out
                     are pretty useless. Remember that you will not be able to
                     use your notes any more effectively than the original text
                     if they are too long.
Structured           Structuring your notes shows you how to think about and
                     understand the topic.
Bold                 Your notes should be bright, stand out and be full of
                     features that are helpful to you. Mind mapping is especially

Taking notes

Get organised
At the top of each page, write the title of the book / lecture, author / lecturer
and date. If taking notes from a book, it may be helpful to note any page
reference. This information will help you when you come to revise and if you
want to check back on the facts.

Good notes use a system of headings.

Main ideas:          These could be written in capital letters, underlined or

Sub-headings:        These could be written in capital letters or numbers,
                     circles or different colours could be used.

Key points:          Don’t try and copy down large chunks of text. Take brief
                     notes, or make drawings. Note in full any formulae or
                     calculations you may need later.

Be selective:        Avoid material that wanders off the point, any long
                     examples or repetitions.
Space                Leave space for easy reading and for further additions.

                                                                Lochaber College
     Note-Taking                                              Study Skills Support
Use drawings, mnemonics, lists, mind maps. The study Skills pack on
‘Memorising’. You do not need to write in sentences, use key words. ‘Mortar’
words like ‘a’ and ‘the’ can be left out. ‘Brick’ words are the important ones.

Don’t waste time wondering about the spelling of any word. Write it as best you
can and check it up at your leisure.

Make any links between headings and sub headings

Useful notes may well include your own thoughts or ideas which are not in the
text or lecture.

Develop your own system of abbreviations. The topic title can be referred to by
initial letters. Here is a list to help you:
+       and                                  etc    etcetera, and so on
\       therefore                            m      metre
Q       because                              yrs    years
                                             abt    about
¨       come from, causes
                                             betw/ between
Æ       leads to, results
                                             w/     with
<       less than
                                             /      and, or
>       more than
                                             “      ditto marks
=       equals, is the same as
#       not the same as                      ♂      female, male
<<      over
                                             i.e.   that is
>>      under
                                             e.g.   for example
%       percent
C19     19th Century

You could also try using texting language.

                                                               Lochaber College
   Note-Taking                                               Study Skills Support

Taking Notes from a Text
Skim and scan for headings, sub headings, illustrations, diagrams, or clues about
sections of text.
Put down the headings and leave a space for the notes between them.
Ask yourself questions to establish your purpose for reading the text.
Read each section intensively. Look out for key words and phrases. You may find
the following helpful.

Key Words and Phrases

   • This chapter describes
   • In beginning our study
   • Let us examine
   • Questions.      Example; who are the Scots?
These tell you that you will meet a similar idea or continue on the same line of
   • First, second, third
   • Next
   • Furthermore
   • In addition
   • Similarly
   • Also
   • Not only but also

These   tell you that you will need to be aware of an opposing idea or a different
   •    But
   •    Yet
   •    On the contrary
   •    Nevertheless
   •    On the other hand
   •    Conversely
   •    However

These   tell you that you must pay careful attention; this is of special importance:
   •    Significantly
   •    Without question
   •    Absolutely
   •    Without doubt

                                                           Lochaber College
   Note-Taking                                           Study Skills Support
   • Let us briefly review
   • From the evidence
   • You can see
   • This, then is an important point
   • In chapter 4, we
   • Thus
   • Therefore
   • Consequently
   • As a result

If the section has answered any of your questions, make notes under that

Taking notes from a Lecture
This requires more skill than note taking from a text as it is one off and is
usually done under pressure. Good speakers will tell you where they are taking
you, take you and then tell you where you have been.
You should be able to follow the lecturer’s own logical structure and so make
more intelligible notes.
Each lesson or discussion you attend may be different depending upon the style
of the lecturer but many will take the following structure.

This may be a joke, a boring story or a simple good morning/afternoon.
However, it may be a review of the main points of the previous lesson and as
such can be of use to you in taking notes. You can check if you have all the
points or whether you have missed some from the previous lesson.

This is the main body of the lesson and may take the following forms:
   1. The lecturer may give a main point and then expand it through various
        sub-points in a very orderly way
   2. The lecturer may give various sub-points before making a general
        statement or main point
   3. The lecturer may vary his style between 1 and 2 at random

At the end of the class the lecturer may state all of the main points and this
can be useful check for you to make sure you have not missed any.
Throughout the lesson there may be various jokes, stories and illustration not
directly to do with the subject. You must be able to sort out which information
you need and which you can ignore as being there for interest or to keep you

                                                             Lochaber College
   Note-Taking                                             Study Skills Support
Key Words and Phrases

Listen for key words or phrases such as:-
    • Today I’m going to tell you about….
    • Firstly…
    • Now I’d like to go on…
    • The next stage or step..
    • To sum up..
    • In short..
Pay particular attention to changes in the lecturer’s voice, facial expression and
hand movements.
It can be difficult if a lecturer rambles on, backtracks or digresses but if you
have a good relationship with your lecturer you may feel able to ask to be
provided with the above mentioned type of structure.

Your notes will be easily found if you:
   • Use one size of paper
   • Keep your notes together
   • Use one file separated into sections, or several files

Reviewing Notes
After class, ask a fellow student or lecturer for the information you need to fill
in any blanks spaces you have left or to clarify any misunderstanding.
You may find it useful to review notes and study for assessment with a fellow
student. Also you can share notes when one of you is absent.
Read over your notes and make sure you can both read and understand them.
Underline or highlight major concepts and key words and phrases.
You may wish to alter the order of your notes for better understanding.
Present them in a diagrammatic form if this is more helpful for you.
Review all you notes every week. (See the section on the ‘Forgetting Curve’ in
the memorising Study Skills section.)

When you are revising your notes for an essay, an assessment or an exam, ask
yourself what points the lecturer might expect in an answer. Another method is
to write out notes a second time. Many people find that this helps them to
remember things more clearly.