Note Taking Tips

Taking notes can be crucial for making sure you learn lecture material and understand readings. The goal of good note taking is to create notes that you will be able to use & easily reference to benefit your learning. It is not a transcript of everything in the textbooks or of what is said during lecture.

Taking notes helps you stay engaged as you listen or read. Studies show students who take good notes also save time overall when they study. If you find yourself not using your notes often or not finding them helpful, below are some suggestions for improvement to get you started.

  • Focus on main points, vocabulary terms, connecting the dots, summaries, & not writing out every word or detail. Be sure to put in your own words.
  • Preview what you’re going to be covering before lecture or reading. Look over the schedule, any reading headers, handouts, or slides available to you beforehand to help you identify key topics to focus on.
  • Organize the best you can.
    • Be sure to write down date, overall topic, & number the pages if not in a notebook.
    • Use bullet points to keep ideas separate.
    • Find what works for you. Try color coding for definitions, main ideas, etc. Highlight, underline, use all capitals, circle, or draw lines to connect ideas or show importance.
  • Mark where you have questions & will need to look for more information or ask your instructor for clarification. Follow up as soon as you can and be sure to leave room in your notes so you can write further explanation later.
  • Can have “messy” notes from lecture & then re-copy to help organize for studying.
  • Use abbreviations or symbols that make sense to you. Make drawings or diagrams as needed.
  • As soon as you can after class, re-read your notes and review where you need more clarification or to fill in more information. Even 5 minutes of review can help with retention.
  • Can be recorded or typed, but studies show that writing out notes by hand if you’re able helps with memorization.
    •  Listening to notes aloud is also helpful.
    • Recommend trying or Live Transcribe by Google if you plan to record notes.
    • See if you can get the slides ahead of class & use to take notes on.
  • When using your notes, work to use them actively & not just to re-read silently over & over again to best learn the material.
    • Read & “teach” aloud as you study.
    •  Make flashcards with the material or cover up portions of your notes to quiz yourself on what you need to memorize.
    • Be sure to relate to what else you’ve learned in class & apply concepts.
    • Make your own test questions to practice from for upcoming tests.
  • Consider the type of note style you use & if a different format may help your learning or be better suited for the subject.



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Kirkwood Community College Academic Coaching Resources Copyright © by Myranda Hadley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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