Updated: May 5, 2022
Note-taking skills are often overlooked, but they are a very crucial part of an effective study plan. Taking notes is a very personal practice. It may take some time to figure our your style, but here I provide some tips that can help you get started.
When possible - write, don't type. It forces you to be concise. When you type, you're more likely to write things down verbatim without internalizing what you are writing.
Choose your method. Will you write notes using a tablet, lecture note printouts, a notebook or note-taking sheets?
Preparing BEFORE your lecture
Go over your lecture notes and/or slides if your instructor provides them to you ahead of time. Read the corresponding textbook chapters if you have time.
Don't worry about memorizing any information. Instead, try to get a general idea of the concepts that will be covered. If you have any major questions at this point, write them down.
If you are completely lost and do not understand any of the material, you may want to review previous lecture material. Otherwise, you may have a hard time keeping up.
Taking notes DURING lecture
Come prepared. Bring any materials you may need for note-taking. Highlighters and sticky-notes can be very helpful for note-taking. Tablets generally have these options as well.
Minimize distractions. Avoid sitting next to chatty classmates. Find a spot that allows you to focus. Generally, students tend to pay most attention at the front of the classroom.
Always write down the date, course, chapter number and lecture title.
Try to be concise and use abbreviations whenever possible. Do not worry about your notes looking perfect. They do have to legible though.
Do not write everything down and do not rewrite anything that is already on the slides/lecture notes. Focus on any additional material that the instructor provides.
Write down any examples or hints that your instructor may provide.
If your instructor spends a long time explaining a concept or going through an example, make note of this. It generally means the material is very important. You can put a sticky note or draw a big star/symbol next to it.
Write down any questions you may have or put a question mark next to concepts that are still unclear to you. Try to get clarification during lecture or right after if possible.
Reviewing your notes after lecture
Review your notes no later than 24 hours after your lecture.
You can make your notes more presentable by adding subtitles, colour and extra notes. Some people also choose to rewrite their notes in a different format, as it helps them study.
You can colour-code your notes after lecture. You can use different highlighters or pens to distinguish important terms, equations, dates and examples. This is particularly helpful if you are a visual learner.
Complete your notes. Add any extra examples or information that may be useful for studying purposes.
If you still have any question marks on your notes, try to find the answer and write them out. You can use sticky notes for this.
Stay organized. Keep your notes in a binder or folder arranged by chapter or date.