Tips on Taking Notes

  1. Leave a margin of 1 1/2 inches on the left side of your paper for notes during reviews.
  2. Make sure to write the date on your notes.
  3. Outline lecture notes – use Roman numerals or indenting.
  4. Write brief paragraphs for more unorganized material.
  5. Write down key words in your notes – technical jargon, numbers, names, formulas, key concepts.
  6. Use pictures and diagrams if you are a kinesthetic or visual learner.
  7. Use loose leaf paper so you can spread your notes out in front of you.
  8. Use brackets, parentheses and so on to emphasize important information.

When to write things down in your notes:

  1. When the instructor repeats, paraphrases or restates an idea, issue, concept, formula or example
  2. When the instructor uses words that signal significance like:
    • "The following four points..."
    • "The most important..."
    • "To begin with..."
    • "Also..."
    • "In conclusion..."
    • "In addition..."
    • "The key idea..."
    • "Consequently..."
  3. When the instructor writes something on the board or puts information on an overhead projector.
  4. When the instructor refers to his or her notes.
  5. When the instructor seems particularly interested in a point or issue.
  6. When the instructor indicates directly that information is important - "This will be on the exam" - put a star by it in the margin.

What to do if the instructor is talking too fast?

  1. Ask permission to use a recording device so you can refer to the full lecture at a later point for any missed information.
  2. Indicate where you have missed something in your notes.
  3. Write down only key words and ideas.
  4. Compare notes with classmates.
  5. See instructor after class or during office hours to clarify incomplete information.