Note Taking Tips

Be prepared for class

  • Do the assigned readings: If you don’t have time to read closely, you should still open the book and skim the pages so you get a general idea of the content. If you already have some general knowledge of the topic, it will be easier to pick up the important facts from a professor’s lecture.

download.jpg“Read” the professor

  • Pay attention to the subject at hand: At the beginning of the class, the professor will probably announce the subject of the lecture. Write it down! Then, when you are listening to the lecture, you will know what kind of information deserves close attention.
  • The professor might ask questions or give sub-topics. Pay attention to these — they are the “bones” of the lecture.
  • Write down the information the professor writes on the board: He/she wouldn’t waste time writing if it wasn’t important.
  • Use “free time” wisely: While the professor explains main points with examples, utilize this “free time” to fill in the notes that you did not get a chance to finish.

Be proactive

  • Develop your own shorthand: If you try to write out every word, you will never get all of the important information down.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand something: If you do not understand a concept while you are in class, then you will have a much tougher time understanding it when you go back to look at your notes.

Check and refine your work

  • Recopy your notes: It is not enough to just take notes in class. Rewrite and reorganize them right after the lecture or as soon as you can. This way, the lecture will be fresh in your head and you can organize your notes effectively. Rewriting and reorganizing will also reinforce the main ideas and cut down on your study time in the long run.

When you need assistance…

  • See the professor: This should be the first place to go (since this is the individual from whom you received the information) if you are having trouble or need clarification on your notes.
  • Ask a friend: If you think you may have missed something, or just want to check the completeness of your notes, compare them to a classmate’s.
  • Record the lecture: If you find you are missing large chunks of lectures or you just can’t keep up with the professor, record the lecture and listen to it later to catch the notes you missed. (Make sure to ask the instructor first – some teachers do not wish to be recorded.)
  • Go to the Office of Academic Services (O.A.S.): To review and improve note taking skills, see a staff member or tutor.