Strategies for note taking and note making
Good note-taking and note-making strategies are essential for successful study and learning. These study strategies help you to organise the content you hear and read, in a way that works for you, to make it easier to prepare for assessment tasks. To best prepare, it is essential that you plan for and start this in your first week of study.
Note taking strategies
The key to effective note-taking is active listening. This will mean that rather than writing down anything and everything you hear or read, you will be able to focus on capturing the key ideas, concepts and information relevant to your assessment tasks and revision requirements. The more succinct, relevant and specific your notes are, the easier it will be to use them!
The key to developing active listening skills is preparation.
Skimming through your unit content at the beginning of the session and completing a session planner is an effective first step in developing an overall understanding of what you will learn and what you will need to know. Keeping a concept journal can not only help you develop active listening skills, importantly, it can also help you keep track of your key unit concepts in preparation for completing assessment tasks.
Keeping a concept journal
A concept can be an abstract idea, a theory, an instrument or a model. Every unit you study at university will teach specific unit concepts, expressed through disciplinary language, or specialist terms. Learning these concepts is essential to study success, as these concepts are essentially the language of your discipline and enable you to think like the professional you are studying to become. Importantly, you will always be required to include unit concepts in your assessment tasks. Learn more about using concepts in your writing under Study Strategies on the Learning Zone Quick Guides page.
A concept journal is a powerful way of keeping track of these concepts and can be as simple as a word doc or an index book. Try adding to this “super glossary of terms” each week after completing the unit content from that week.
Watch this video on Keeping a concept journal to learn more.
- Keep your notes brief.
- Try using symbols and abbreviations that are meaningful to you. See the note-taking and note-making Quick Guides.
- Try using a note taking method such as the Cornell method or the outlining method.
- Try using a synthesis grid when taking notes from readings. Learn more about synthesising in the topic on Reading.
- If taking notes in a lecture or tutorial:
- Try downloading the lecture slides beforehand, read and use as a basis for your notes. This will also activate your active listening skills.
- Write down questions to come back to after the lecture.
- Review your notes after the lecture, add information, answer your questions, fill in information gaps, and rewrite illegible writing if handwritten.
- Consider typing out hand written notes.
Note making strategies
There are many ways of organising notes to make it easier to access information for assessment tasks or when revising for quizzes and exams. Even going through the process of organising your notes into an accessible format can be a powerful way to engage with your unit content, improve your understanding of concepts and enhance your ability to remember information. Ideally, you will use your weekly planner to dedicate a little time each week to reviewing and organising notes from that week.
When choosing a note-making strategy, it can be helpful to consider whether your notes will be used to prepare for a written task or presentation, or to revise for a quiz or exam.
It is also really important to remember that your note-making strategies need to work for you. Start by considering what type of learner you are, that is, how you best absorb and retain information. This is particularly important if you are making notes in preparation for a quiz or exam. If you are not sure about this, try completing the VARK questionnaire to gain some insight into your learning style preferences.
Once you have reflected on the type of learner you are, the next step is to consider what types of note-making strategies might work best for you.