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The best note takers are often the most successful college students.

Part of the challenge in taking good notes is that teaching styles vary from instructor to instructor - so do lecturing styles. Some instructors are well organized, and some wander; some are story tellers, allowing students to determine how the story is significant. It is essential for students to determine an instructor's lecturing style and method for divulging important ideas. This helps them determine what information needs to be included in notes taken during a lecture.

In order to aid students in developing good note-taking skills in the classroom, it is important to provide them with a working knowledge about the subject. Therefore, it is critical to have them actually engage in the art of taking notes during class.

The computer-based version of this course provides basic information about developing notetaking skills. It also models the development of notetaking skills through a group of virtual students who are listening to information provided by other members of the group.


    • Make some preparation for the lecture so that you will be more likely to predict the organization of the lecture.
      • CHECK THE COURSE OUTLINE to see if the lecturer has listed the topic or key ideas in the upcoming lecture. If so, convert this information into questions to be answered in the lecture.
      • BEFORE THE LECTURE, complete outside reading or reference assignments.
      • REVIEW THE TEXT ASSIGNMENT and any reading notes taken.
      • REVIEW NOTES from the previous lecture.
    • Sit as near to the front of the room as possible to eliminate distractions.
    • Copy everything on the blackboard and transparencies, especially the outline.
    • Have a proper attitude. Listening well is a matter of paying close attention. Be prepared to be open-minded to what the lecturer may say even though you may disagree with it.
    • Have your lecture paper and pencil or pen ready.
    • Write down the title of the lecture, the name of the course and the date.
    • Watch the speaker carefully.
    • Listen carefully to the introduction (if there is one). Hear the lecture. By knowing his outline, you will be better prepared to anticipate what notes you will need to take.
    • Be brief in your note taking. Summarize your notes in your own words, not the instructor's. Remember: your goal is to understand what she is saying, not to try to record exactly everything she says.
    • Try to recognize main ideas by signal words that indicate something important is to follow. Examples: "First, Second, Next, Then, Thus, Another important...," etc.
    • Jot down details or examples that support the mainideas. Give special attention to details not covered in the textbook.
    • If there is a summary at the end of the lecture, pay close attention to it. You can use it to check the organization of your notes. If your notes seem disorganized, copy down the main points covered in the summary. It will help in revising your notes later.
    • At the end of the lecture, ask questions about points you did not understand.
    • Don't be in a rush. Be attentive, listen and take notes right up to the point at which the instructor dismisses you. If you are gathering together your personal belongings when you should be listening, you're bound to miss an important point--perhaps an announcement about the next exam!
    • Revise your notes as quickly as possible, preferably immediately after the lecture since at that time you will still remember a good deal of the lecture.
    • During the first review period after the lecture, coordinate reading and lecture notes.

    Review your lecture notes AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. Also, review the lecture notes before the next lecture.


  • Collect notes for each course in one place, in a separate notebook or section of a notebook.
  • Write notes on one side of the page only.
  • Use a loose-leaf notebook rather than a notebook with a permanent binding. See the pattern of a lecture by spreading out the pages.
  • Write name and date of the class on the first sheet for each lecture.
  • Use 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper for your notes. This size will allow you to indent and see the structure of your notes.
  • Do not perform manual activities which will detract from taking notes. Do not doodle or play with your pen. These activities break eye contact and concentration.
  • Enter your notes legibly because it saves time. Make them clear.
  • Use abbreviations.
  • Box assignments and suggested books so you can identify them quickly.
  • Mark ideas which the lecture emphasizes with an arrow or some special symbol.
  • Pay close attention to transitional words, phrases, and sentence which signal the end of one idea and the beginning of another. Listen for words such as "therefore", "finally", and "furthermore." They usually signal an important idea.
  • Take down examples and sketches which the lecturer presents. Indicate examples with "EX."
  • Review your notes as soon as possible. Read through the notes and improve the organization if necessary.
  • Listening and note taking are SKILLS. The more you practice these techniques, the more skilled you will become. REALLY TRY TO USE AND IMPROVE THESE SKILLS. Soon you will be able to record the fastest lecturer to your satisfaction.