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Note Taking

  • Why take lecture notes?
  • Did you ever wonder why instructors make such a big deal about taking notes during a class lecture?
  • Have you ever really thought about the importance of taking notes in class?
  • In fact, it is just as important to take notes as you read your text assignments. 
  • See chapter on SQ3R. 

The Importance of Taking Notes

  • Taking notes develops a sense of listening, allowing the reader to recognize main ideas and to understand the organization of the material.  
  • Not only does the student record significant facts but the lecturer's emphases and perspectives are recorded as well.  
  • Lecture notes provide the clearest and best indication of what the student should encounter on the exam.  
  • Taking lecture notes in class keeps the student's attention focused on the lecture, thereby increasing concentration, retention and understanding.  
  • Taking notes in class makes the student an active participant in the learning process rather than a passive listener or daydreamer.  
  • Taking notes in class means, most significantly, that you are present in class, a most honorable action to take as a serious student.  
  • Taking notes helps the student sort out important information—by synthesizing and beginning the actual learning process the student is actually making the material his own.  
  • The notes taken will become a study aid, an external memory device, and an instrument to aid in review and recitation. This process leads to long-term learning.  


Facilitating Your Notetaking

  • Attend class regularly. Arrive on time.  
  • Keep up with reading assignments.  
  • Organize your notetaking materials ahead of time and come mentally prepared. 

Why Should You Rewrite Your Notes?

  • To be useful, notes must be arranged in some logical system that you understand and use. ·  
  • Notes should be legible and complete. Use the rewriting process to reformat them, reword them and to complete them. ·  
  • Notes should be paraphrased. Take the time to put them into your own words and understanding. Be brief.  
  • See the SQ3R section to learn about taking your own notes on the textbook assigned readings.  

Other Importance Points About Note-taking

  • Review your notes as soon as possible after class. ·  
  • Review the notes from the previous class meeting while you sit and wait for the class to begin. Orient yourself for the upcoming lecture. You will be able to take more relevant and complete notes. ·  
  • Review each week's notes at the end of the week. Start preparing for the next unit test by spending 20 minutes each day throughout the time period assigned for that unit reviewing and reciting the relevant material. · 
  • Extensive studies have shown that one's recall rises immediately after a learning period, such as a lecture, and then declines rapidly until after about twenty-four hours, recall has diminished by about 80%. However, the decline in recall can be dramatically reduced if one reinforces the learning by a short review within one hour.  

    • The longer the period of time the greater the loss of recall;  
    • the shorter the period of time, the lesser the loss of recall. 
  • What is the single most important way to prepare for a test?  

    • Believe it or not, the single most effective way to prepare for a test is recitation.  
    • Hearing your own voice summarizing the material and quizzing yourself on it will greatly reinforce your mental image of the subject. 
    • Too many student think that the thing to do is to reread chapters. Boring! Right?  
    • Studies have shown that about 80% of your study time can more profitably be spent in recitation rather than rereading. 
  • A student needing to improve notetaking skills might check for additional information on these websites.

When Instructors Talk Too Fast

  1. Come prepared for class. It might mean having to preview material to be covered during the next class meeting. Familiarity with a subject increases your ability to pick out key points.  
  2. Focus your attention on key points. It might mean having to make choices. Choose what you think is most important. Write down key words and phrases and revise your notes immediately after class.  
  3. Exchange notes with your classmates. Pool these notes and all involved will have a more complete set of notes. Exchange notes regularly if it proves beneficial.  
  4. Leave large empty spaces for filling in information you missed. Use symbols that will help you remember what is missing.  
  5. See the instructor after class. Take your notes with you and show the instructor what you missed. Ask questions. Suggest that he or she slow down. If that doesn't work, use the following suggestions.  
  6. Ask the instructor's permission to use a tape recorder in class. This option should be used only as a last resort. Remember, the best tool to use in the classroom is taking notes. That forces you to stay actively engaged in the lecture.  
  7. Take detailed notes on your reading, leaving plenty of room to add lecture notes to them.  
  8. Ask the instructor if he or she is giving the same lecture at another time. Hearing it again will help solidify your understanding of the material and help you fill in gaps in your notes.  
  9. Ask questions in class. Many instructors allow time for questions. Use this time to ask for clarification of difficult points or simply to fill in information you missed the first time. Most instructors will discuss the material in different words, perhaps adding illustrations, that will simplify the material.  

Adapted from Ellis, Becoming a Master Student. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.