Listening to lectures:  Taking notes

The instructor gives us handouts of the PowerPoint.  Why should I take notes?

  • Usually the instructor adds extra information and examples to what is on the PowerPoint slides. This information can help you understand more clearly, and helps you give more complete answers in class discussions or in tests.
  • It’s easy to lose your concentration in class, especially if the lecture is long. Taking notes helps you think actively about what your instructor is saying and helps to keep you awake.
  • It will be easier for you to remember information if you not only hear it, but also think about how it relates to the rest of the information, paraphrase it, and write it down. It will cut down on your studying time later by helping you remember more just by being in class.
  • If you take notes during lectures and then combine them with notes from your readings, it’s easier to see what the instructor considers important.
  • Later, you can shorten these notes into study sheets. This makes studying for tests and exams much, much easier and saves you time.

How should I take notes?

  • Don’t copy full sentences – use key words to capture just the most important idea. However, make sure that the idea is noted completely so that it will make sense when you read it in the future.
  • Paraphrase and summarize when it makes sense to.
  • Write down the date of the lecture or page numbers of the book that you took the information from.
  • Rewrite your lecture and textbook notes on a separate summary sheet, combining them. Try to put all the information on one to two pages.
  • Use spacing, indentation, capitalization, underlining, and graphic organizers to show the relationships between the main ideas and the details.
  • Use abbreviations. Learn some common abbreviations and make up some new ones – try to shorten any words that are seven letters or more. Remember that it is important to be consistent.
  • There are several different models for taking notes that help you study more efficiently, like the Cornell system and graphic organizers. Come to see a tutor if you are interested in learning more about this.