A Christian College of the Liberal Arts & Sciences

Taking Notes

Taking notes from a lecture can sometimes seem like a complicated process, but here are a few hints to make it easier.  Your notes eventually will be used to study from; therefore, don’t waste time by re-writing them to make them more organized – do it from the beginning.

Note Taking Tips

Before the Lecture

  • Convert main ideas into questions to be answered during the lecture.
  • Complete outside reading.
  • Review notes taken from your reading assignment.
  • Review notes from previous lecture.

Just before the Lecture begins and as it starts

  • Get to class early and be ready to take notes.
  • Record Title of Lecture and Date.
  • Listen to the introduction and make a brief lecture outline to guide notetaking. 

During the Lecture

  • Watch the speaker carefully; act attentive.
  • Take notes in your own words, being brief.
  • Listen for SIGNAL WORDS to recognize the main ideas. 
  • Record DETAILS or EXAMPLES that support the Main Ideas. 
  • Listen for summaries.
  • Ask questions.

After the Lecture

  • Immediately after the lecture, summarize it in your own words.
  • Revise the notes the same day they were taken.
  • Combine reading and lecture notes.
  • Review lecture/reading notes ALOUD at least three times. 
  • Review lecture notes prior to the next lecture.

Other Tips

  • Arrive a few minutes early to class so you have time to get prepared and quickly review the notes from the previous class lecture.
  • Sit toward the front in the center of the room.  This will help with your ability to stay alert and can even help with that class participation grade.
  • Avoid writing down everything that is said word-for-word.  Try to put the professor’s ideas down in your own words.
  • Develop a key of symbols or abbreviations that you will use in note-taking that will speed up the process.  Two very helpful shorthand abbreviations are the dot (.) to replace ing and the slash (/) for ed. 

    e.g.  b/c – because, paint. - painted, @ - at, paint/ - painting, w/ with, and w/o – without
  • Make a list of words you use frequently in a particular class and insert abbreviations for them. 

Ex: in an art history class the flowing words are often used:
Artist                      (artst)                                     Color                      (clr)
Abstract                                (abstrct)                                 Painting                 (pnt/)
Chromatic              (chrmtc)                                 Brush                     (brsh)

  • Use symbols, circled words, or capital letters to highlight ideas for quick reference. 

? Use to point out something you don’t understand
* Use to highlight something important
! Use to indicate the professor’s emphasis (by voice tone, non-verbal cues, writing points on the board, etc.

  • Print clearly and only write on one side of the paper, skipping lines if necessary to fill in gaps later.
  • Some Note-Taking Don’ts
  • Don’t sit near friends (avoid distractions)
  • Don’t doodle (it breaks concentration and eye contact with the professor)
  • Don’t look for facts only (see ideas too)
  • Don’t give up if the lecturer it too fast (some is better than none)
  • Don’t use Roman Numerals (you’ll get too confused with III, IV, VI, etc.)

[1] Adapted by Susan M. Hice, Ph.D., from University of North Carolina-Charlotte pamphlet.  Web site www.uncc.edu/univlern  Found in Disability Compliance for Higher Education, Vol. 4, No. 6, Jan. 1999.
[2] Note, if your auditory memory is poor, you may have to record everything you can and put it in your own words later, or you may have to tape record the lecture while take rough notes, then fill in your notes later.