Note Taking & Recording Keeping Tips for Students

students taking notes

Lecturers assume that their listeners know how to take good notes before they begin their presentation. Students who do not know effective note-taking strategies suffer from a disadvantage over those who do. The majority of students do not know the correct way to take notes. In fact, many of them think note-taking is a waste of time. On the contrary, note-taking makes life a lot easier to handle when it comes time to take big tests and write term papers. Good note-taking helps people recall information they may have otherwise forgotten. It also helps listeners to stay focused on the material taught in class. In turn, this creates better students.

Why Take Notes?

Many students and professionals believe that successful note-taking involves transcribing a lecture word for word. Effective notes encompass a wide array of important facts, definitions, names, and dates that relate to the subject matter. True learning stems from active listening and comprehension. Note-taking enables students and professionals to process the information already stored in their brains at a later date. In other words, note-taking makes it easier for the student and professional to study better in the long run. Do not attempt to contain everything on paper. Focus on the most important aspects of the material to avoid confusion in the future. This approach will save the student and professional time and hassle from having to wade through every detail when it comes time to prepare for a big test or term paper.

Prepare to Take Notes

Students and professionals can prepare to take notes by developing an organizational system. This will help keep them from fretting over finding them when it comes time to study. Students should decide on what materials to use when taking notes, such as flashcards, loose leaf paper, or a notebook. Professionals may decide to use a computer to save their notes in an electronic file. Each option has its advantages and detriments. Students can use flashcards marked with color codes or a number system to keep track of their notes. Notebooks and loose leaf binders will also require color-coding or numbering. Electronic notes make it easier to search when it comes time to study. In addition, computerized notes are legible and easy to print.

Tips on Taking Notes

  • Attend lectures on time. Students who do not go to class may miss important ideas not found in the textbook.
  • Be alert and prepared for the lecture.
  • Be orderly with a pen and paper in hand to process the lecture at a later date.
  • Remain up to date with the class material.
  • Use different notebooks or binders if taking more than one class.
  • Write on one side of the paper to avoid overlooking material on the back of a sheet.
  • Avoid doodling and keep eye contact with the speaker when not writing.
  • Develop and enumeration and indenting style.
  • Use symbols and highlighters to emphasize certain points.
  • Pay close attention around the end of the lecture. Some speakers find themselves lagging behind and may cram the rest of the material during the last ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Use the five-minute technique to review notes immediately after class. This gives students time to change, add, summarize, erase, or clarify information in the notes.

Styles of Note-taking

Many students and professionals jot down the most important ideas randomly; however, there is a method to the madness. Effective note-takers have used one of the five different methods for taking notes, including the Cornell, Outline, Mapping, Charting, and Sentence methods. The Cornell method makes it easy to take notes without recopying the most important facts. Dash and indented notes can come in handy in science and math related classes. Mapping involves the creation of a graphic representation of the facts presented during a lecture. Charting comes in handy when the lecture consists of chronological key points. The sentence method allows the note-taker to write down the most important points on separate lines, making it easier to read instead of large blocks of text.


Good notes give students a great reference point to start studying. Many students wait until the last minute to start studying, which leads to cramming all of the course material over one night. Effective note-taking provides students with direction and instills good organizational skills. In addition, note-taking helps students pay attention during class. It also helps recap information taught in class that may have not been fully understood.

Listening Skills

Eight percent of everything acquired from a lecture comes through listening. Therefore, students must learn efficient ways to listen in order to take good notes. Listening requires the application of certain principles until they become ingrained in the note-taker. Students must prepare to listen by keeping up to date with the course curriculum. Read the chapter before attending the lecture to understand the information being presented. Listen for the main ideas and important details that supported them. A speaker typically pauses when giving the main idea, provides examples, and repeats what has been said. Others may change the volume or pitch of their voice to accentuate the point given. Be sure to write down all ideas and facts on the chalkboard or overhead projector.

Refer to these links for other great references on note-taking!

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