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Tips on Taking Lecture Notes

Do's and Don'ts

A good lecturer will either expand on materials in the textbook by giving fuller explanations and adding more details, or he/she will supplement the textbook by introducing related materials and offering different interpretations. Therefore, a good idea might be to skim relevant reading assignments before class.


1. Look over previous notes before class. Use any time before class begins to review.
2. Attend all lectures. It's a continuing story.
3. Be academically aggressive. Look like you want to learn.
4. Take a front seat to see and hear better.
5. Use a large, loose-leaf binder. This gives ample room for note taking.
6. Carry lined loose-leaf (8 1/2" X 11") sheets of paper to class. Put them in a binder after class.
7. Write on only one side of the sheet. This allows for the sheets to easily be spread out for review.
8. On the top sheet, record the course, lecturer, and date.
9. Begin taking notes immediately. Don't wait for inspiration.
10. Write in short, telegraphic sentences.
11. Make notes complete for further understanding.
12. Use modified printing style.
13. Strive to detect main headings. A standard outline form is best: Use Roman numerals, capital letters, etc.
14. Capture ideas as well as facts.
15. Keep your note-organization simple.
16. Skip lines to leave space between main ideas.
17. Discover the organization pattern.
18. If the lecturer is too fast, capture fragments.
19. Leave blank spaces for words to fill in later. Clear up any questions raised from the lecture by asking either the teacher, classmates, looking in the text or another source.
20. Develop your own abbreviations and symbols. Key points in the notes can be highlighted with different colored ink.
21. Record lecturer's examples.
22. Identify your own thoughts. Make note of your ideas and reflections.
23. Keep a separate loose-leaf binder for each course.


1. Don't sit near friends. This can be distracting.
2. Don't wait for something "important"; record everything.
3. Don't covert lecturer's words. It takes time and invites imprecision.
4. Don't look for facts only. See ideas too.
5. Don't give up if the lecturer is too fast. Some is better than none. (See #20 above.)
6. Don't stop to ponder; do it later.
7. Don't doodle -- it breaks your concentration and eye contact.
8. Don't use spiral-bound notebooks. You can't insert handouts into them.
9. Don't consider any examples too obvious.

Instead of closing your notebook early and getting ready to leave, listen carefully to information given toward the end of class. Summary statements may be of particular value in highlighting the main points, and there may be possible quiz questions, etc.

Periodically review your notes. Glance at your recall clues and see how much you can remember before rereading the notes. Look for the emergence of themes, main concepts, and the methods of presentation over the course of several lectures.