Note-Taking Tips

Did you know that note-taking skills is the greatest predictor of success in school?

This is a suddenly a more important topic than you thought.  Note-taking is not something a person is automatically good at from the start.  It is something that we learn to do well over time.  It is also a very important skill to learn because it will help you remember information better.  It is great to hear a lecture from an instructor, but it is even better to then write that important information down or use a computer to document it.  Although, studies do show that using a pen and paper to take notes is still better than taking notes via computer or mobile device.  The reason behind this is that people can usually type faster or text faster than they can write, therefore when they take notes they tend to type everything verbatim.  People taking notes with a pen and paper cannot write as fast as the instructor can speak therefore, they tend to shorten what they transcribe and catch more of the important key terms (they are filtering what they write down as they know they cannot write everything.  Below is what you should be focusing on when taking notes:


  • Anything the instructor verbally mentions as being important
  • Anything the instructor repeats more than once
  • Main/big concepts – when you get out of your class or finish a section of reading ALWAYS ask yourself what was it about?  What was the main topic that was discussed in class today?  What subject did the reading mainly cover?  I cannot stress this enough, if you come out of class and are unable you recall what the lecture was about then you need to start paying better attention.  Also, if you find yourself unable to summarize a reading that is a good indicator that you should read it again.
  • Supporting concepts – These are typically smaller items that somehow relate to the main topic, these often come in the form of key words throughout a chapter, but bear in mind they can be in the form of ideas/concepts as well. 
  • Diagram!  I am not talking about copying down a diagram posted in a course, but making your own.  If you are a visual learner this is something you should do whenever a topic lends itself to it.  A web diagram is a great way to assess what you know about a topic.  You put the main idea/subject in the middle of the paper, circle it, then start filling up the rest of the page with supporting ideas and key terms that relate to the main topic.  Draw circles around these items and link them to the main topic by drawing lines connecting them together.  This provides a great visual aid in determining areas you might be weak on or need to familiarize yourself more with.  See example below:


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