Take Note : Tips for Effective Note Taking

August 05, 2016

Effective note taking strategies is vital for research, learning and virtually every aspect of your academic life. You will need to take notes in lectures ( both in-classroom and online), workshops and when researching specific topics for assignments. Taking notes from lectures, workshops and “ live” presentations requires different skills and approaches to that of taking notes from written materials.

In lectures and live presentations, there is no correct method; everyone tends to develop their own style. What you should NOT do is try to take down every word that is being said, writing as fast as you can. The idea is to get just the main points. You should also try and come to the lecture with an understanding of the topic being discussed, doing some preparatory reading before the lecture as well as some follow up reading after. Use the lecture to add value to your knowledge and perhaps clarify any points or concepts you didn’t quite understand.  Do take into consideration the lecturing style of your lecturer, and don’t be afraid to ask for help to understand or to ask the lecturer to repeat something if you didn’t quite catch it.

If you’re taking notes from written material, you have to actively do something with the information. You need to be clear about what information you need and what you will do with that information. Using a keen eye, you then need to look for those parts of the text that fulfil your information needs. To summarise and paraphrase therefore, you need to have understood the information noted down to so you can than incorporate that, using your own words. The first step to effective note taking is to find the key ideas and words. Use your reading skills to work out where the information you need is. Key words are content words that provide the critical what is or what’s happening information.  Once you find the key words, highlight them, note them down and use them as cues for rewriting the ideas in your own words. Avoid looking at the original text when paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism.

Like any skill, good note taking takes practice, and you will develop your own style. But following these steps will help your research and learning more effective and enable you to use the information you gather in the way in which it was intended.

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