How to Take Notes Effectively
  • 2-minute read
  • 17th September 2015

How to Take Notes Effectively

We take notes during lectures or when reading a book to help us remember important information when writing an essay or revising for an exam.

But effective note taking involves more than just writing stuff down. There are various note taking systems available, so we’ve done some investigating and compiled these great tips on how to take notes.

Summarise, Don’t Transcribe!

The most common mistake people make when taking notes is trying to write everything down. This doesn’t work. Instead you should try to note the main points and important details: names, dates, etc.

Doing this will actually improve your ability to recall information as it forces you to engage with the subject matter more than copying something down verbatim. One good way to do this is to set aside space in your notes to summarise everything in your own words once you’re done.

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Use Shorthand

This doesn’t have to be the kind of comprehensive shorthand traditionally used by journalists. Even using a few shortcuts – like ‘&’ instead of ‘and’ or ‘w/’ instead of ‘with’ – can save valuable time when noting something down.

Tailor Your Technique

Different people work in different ways. And different situations demand different approaches to note taking: a lecture, for example, will be fast paced and thus requires a different approach than when working from a written text. Be prepared to try alternative methods depending on the situation.

Quick Tips for Taking Notes

  • Date and number the pages of your notes to make it easier to find information.
  • Make a list of unfamiliar terms so you can check them once you’re done.
  • Use headings and numbered points to organise your writing.
  • Highlight important information so that you can find it at a glance.
  • Try to be neat! Even thorough notes aren’t much good if you can’t read them.
  • Take down complete references when making notes from a text so that you can cite it clearly in your work.
  • Consider using an audio recorder during lectures so that you can go back over your notes in detail.

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