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Taking Effective Lecture Notes

by Don Emerson

August 14, 2017

Taking Effective Lecture Notes

Effective note taking is an important part of effective study.  The following note taking tips should help you get the most out of lectures.

 

Before Lecture

1) Prepare

Readings prepare you for what is to come in lecture.  Be sure to complete required readings BEFORE lecture.  If you haven't done the reading, you may feel like you are scrambling to keep up with the unfamiliar information coming at you. 

2) Arrive

Arrive early and get a good seat that is in the center of the row and up front near the lecturer, where you can see the board and overheads and hear the lecture clearly .

3) Attend

Skipping lecture is not an option.  Do not rely solely on your classmates' notes or online lecture notes.  Individuals tend to take notes on different things and in different ways.  Besides, do you realize how much money you waste by skipping lecture? 

During Lecture

1) Less is More

Do not attempt to write down the lecturer's words verbatim.  Try to get down as much of the relevant information as possible using the fewest possible words.  Use personal abbreviations and symbols that you will remember and save you writing time.  Develop a system that works for you.   If you have trouble taking notes, consider taping the lecture; many computers can also record, and you can buy microphones that attach to IPODs so you can record to them and store files on your computer for ready reference.

2) Listen for Signal Words and Phrases

Signal words and phrases can help you pinpoint when key ideas and formulas are going to be introduced.

Some common signal words and phrases include:

  • There are 3 reasons why or First, Second, Third         
  • And most important or It is worthwhile to note               
  • A major development€ or A key concept   
               

Some common signals for supporting material include:

  • On the other hand
  • On the contrary
  • For example
  • Similarly
  • In contrast
  • Furthermore

After Lecture

1) Review

Review your notes as quickly as possible after class when the material is still fresh in your mind.

If you have terrible handwriting, consider typing your notes, either bring a laptop to class or type them up from your handwritten notes after class.  Don’t type notes just to waste time or if your handwritten notes are clear.

2) Revision

Regardless of how you took your notes, be sure to spend time touching them up, filling in blanks, clarifying abbreviations, and making note of any questions that come up as you review them.

 If anything from your notes is unclear or you have remaining questions from lecture or your readings, jot them down and have them ready to discuss with your TA in recitation. 

 

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