LECTURE NOTE TAKING
NOTE TAKING. Why take notes in class?
- Organized notes will help you identify the core of important ideas in the lecture.
- A permanent record will help you to learn and remember later.
- The lecture may contain information not available anywhere else. This will be your only
chance to learn it.
- Lecture is where you learn what your instructor thinks is important, and he makes up the
- Class assignments are usually given in the lecture.
- The underlying organization and purpose of the lecture will become clear through note
TAKING NOTES IN CLASS: A BRIEF SUMMARY
- BEFORE THE LECTURE BEGINS:
- Make some preparation for the lecture so that you will be more likely to predict the
organization of the lecture.
- CHECK THE COURSE OUTLINE to see if the lecturer has listed the topic or key ideas in the
upcoming lecture. If so, convert this information into questions to be answered in the
- BEFORE THE LECTURE, complete outside reading or reference assignments.
- REVIEW THE TEXT ASSIGNMENT and any reading notes taken.
- REVIEW NOTES from the previous lecture.
- Sit as near to the front of the room as possible to eliminate distractions.
- Copy everything on the blackboard and transparencies, especially the outline.
- Have a proper attitude. Listening well is a matter of paying close attention. Be
prepared to be open-minded to what the lecturer may say even though you may disagree with
- DURING THE LECTURE:
- Have your lecture paper and pencil or pen ready.
- Write down the title of the lecture, the name of the course and the date.
- Watch the speaker carefully.
- Listen carefully to the introduction (if there is one). Hear the lecture. By knowing his
outline, you will be better prepared to anticipate what notes you will need to take.
- Be brief in your note taking. Summarize your notes in your own words, not the
instructor's. Remember: your goal is to understand what she is saying, not to try
to record exactly everything she says.
- Try to recognize main ideas by signal words that indicate something important is to
follow. Examples: "First, Second, Next, Then, Thus, Another important...," etc.
- Jot down details or examples that support the mainideas. Give special attention to
details not covered in the textbook.
- If there is a summary at the end of the lecture, pay close attention to it. You can use
it to check the organization of your notes. If your notes seem disorganized, copy down the
main points covered in the summary. It will help in revising your notes later.
- At the end of the lecture, ask questions about points you did not understand.
- Don't be in a rush. Be attentive, listen and take notes right up to the point at which
the instructor dismisses you. If you are gathering together your personal belongings when
you should be listening, you're bound to miss an important point--perhaps an announcement
about the next exam!
- AFTER THE LECTURE:
- Revise your notes as quickly as possible, preferably immediately after the lecture since
at that time you will still remember a good deal of the lecture.
- During the first review period after the lecture, coordinate reading and lecture notes.
- Review your lecture notes AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. Also, review the lecture notes before
the next lecture.
TIPS ON TAKING NOTES
- Collect notes for each course in one place, in a separate notebook or section of a
- Write notes on one side of the page only.
- Use a loose-leaf notebook rather than a notebook with a permanent binding. See the
pattern of a lecture by spreading out the pages.
- Write name and date of the class on the first sheet for each lecture.
- Use 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper for your notes. This size will allow you to indent and
see the structure of your notes.
- Do not perform manual activities which will detract from taking notes. Do not doodle or
play with your pen. These activities break eye contact and concentration.
- Enter your notes legibly because it saves time. Make them clear.
- Use abbreviations.
- Box assignments and suggested books so you can identify them quickly.
- Mark ideas which the lecture emphasizes with an arrow or some special symbol.
- Pay close attention to transitional words, phrases, and sentence which signal the end of
one idea and the beginning of another. Listen for words such as "therefore",
"finally", and "furthermore." They usually signal an important idea.
- Take down examples and sketches which the lecturer presents. Indicate examples with
- Review your notes as soon as possible. Read through the notes and improve the
organization if necessary.
- Listening and note taking are SKILLS. The more you practice these techniques, the more
skilled you will become. REALLY TRY TO USE AND IMPROVE THESE SKILLS. Soon you will be able
to record the fastest lecturer to your satisfaction.
Your instructor is not going to send up a rocket when she states an important new idea
or gives an example, but she will use signals to telegraph what she is doing. Every good
speaker does it, and you should expect to receive these signals. For example, she may
introduce an example with "for example" as done here.
Other common signals are:
- "There are three reasons why...." (HERE THEY COME!)
- "First...Second... Third...." (THERE THEY ARE!)
- "And most important,...." (A MAIN IDEA!)
- "A major development...." (A MAIN IDEA AGAIN!)
She may signal support material with:
- "On the other hand...."
- "On the contrary...."
- "For example...."
- "In contrast...."
- "As an example...."
- "For instance...."
He may signal conclusion or summary with:
- "In conclusion...."
- "As a result...."
- "In summary...."
- "From this we see...."
She may signal very loud with:
- "Now this is important...."
- "Remember that...."
- "The important idea is that...."
- "The basic concept here is...."
Signals are usually ignored by those of us who do not know how to listen effectively.
Expect signals and be alert when you receive them.
Reproduced with the permission of Gregory Wells, Coordinator, William James
Center, Davis and Elkins College, Elkins WV., NACADA Conf. 1987