Note taking

Note taking in lectures and from books is an important skill and it encourages you to learn actively.

Learning at Lincoln - Student using a Mac sat in a lecture.

You will often need to take notes in lectures and from books, journals and other learning materials you use during your studies. Note taking is an important skill as it helps you to process new information and encourages you to learn actively, engaging with the topic you are studying. Taking notes efficiently and effectively will also give you a record of your learning and is an important resource to look back on.

Here are a few tips to help you when making notes in lectures:

  • Be prepared! Make sure that you have a pen and plenty of paper or a device that you can quickly take notes with.
  • Before the lecture, look at your lecture schedule to find out the subject that is to be covered and do some background reading.
  • Print out or take a copy of any PowerPoint slides or lecture notes which have been placed on Blackboard.
  • Be punctual so you don’t miss anything at the start of the lecture and have time to settle down and get organised.
  • At the start of the lecture note down the lecturer, topic and date.
  • Be pro-active in your note making – ask yourself questions to follow up later.
  • To help follow a lecture (remember a lecturer may go at a faster pace to that which you are used to), look for verbal signposts, for example, Let’s start by looking at…, Now we’ll move on to …, To sum up…
  • Try to be accurate, particularly when noting down calculations.
  • Use abbreviations where possible.

Here are some examples to get you started:

    • equals
    • =x does not equal
    • greater than/increasingly
    • cf compared with
    • leads to
    • viz namely
    • less so
    • shld should
    • i.e.that is
    • e.g. for example
    • cld could
    • wd would

It is important that the notes you make in lectures are not just filed away and forgotten about. You should consider these notes as a first draft which should be re-visited after the lecture. Discuss the lecture with another student to fill in any gaps and to check your understanding. Finally, re-work your notes by putting them into a form which is most useful for you. Make your notes memorable by adding colour, using mnemonics, diagrams and mind-maps.

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