Note Taking

This handout contains some hints for surviving a lecture intensive course (i.e. a course in which the professor talks a lot and the student writes a lot).

The first survival skill is notetaking. A common complaint from students is that he/she "expects us to be tape recorders - there is no way I can write that fast." WRONG! The professor does not expect anyone to be a tape recorder. He does expect good notetaking. Good notetaking CAN be learned.

Here we go ----

  1. Be on time for class - have your lecture materials out and ready to go when the professor walks in the door.
  2. Be ready to start LISTENING as soon as the professor walks in the door.
  3. Have more than one pen or pencil ready.
  4. Make sure you have reviewed prior lecture material - if you already have a concept in your lecture notes, and the idea is referred to again, all you have to do is jot a note to refer back to old notes.
  5. Know how to spell - both plain old English words - and technical words that have all ready been presented in class. If you can spell them you won't have to waste time trying to figure out HOW to spell. If you are hopelessly beyond spelling when under pressure, learn to spell words as they sound - BUT - then make very sure you go over notes immediately after class and put correct spelling in or you will never remember what you have written.
  6. Be aggressive in notetaking. Don't wait for an idea to strike you - it's far better to have too much material than too little.
  7. If the professor repeats something, MAKE SURE YOU WRITE IT DOWN.
  8. Be especially aware of lists and problems or examples done and write them down.
  9. Take notes, not dictation. That means being able to develop your own form of notehand.
  10. Some common forms of notehand include spelling every day words phonetically eg. says = saz, days = daz.
  11. Another notehand technique is to develop abbreviations for words that are used frequently in the course.
  12. As long as you have the word spelled out correctly somewhere in your notes, you can refer back.

  13. Leave out the "the's, a's", etc.
  14. Use symbols when you can
  15. Leave out vowels.
  16. If there is a simple symbol, use it
  17. PRINT key words. The eye and brain recognize print faster and you will remember it longer.
  18. Use indentation when taking notes.
  19.    eg.
        definition 1. _____________                     
        definition 2. _____________
  20. Skip lines - leave visual breaks between definitions, lists, or explanations. (note space between definition 1 and 2 above)
  21. If you miss something, leave a blank in your notes. You can fill it in later. If you try to copy it from your neighbor, both of you will lose more material.
  22. If you miss something in lecture, DO NOT interrupt lecture. There is nothing more distracting to both lecturer and class than to be tracking along with an idea and have someone in the room interrupt with "What came after 'foreign protein'?" Fill in your blanks after lecture.

  23. Get together with classmates after lecture and pool your notes. That way you can be sure you have everything down. It will also help make sure you understand what you have written down. (That's how students survived pre-tape recorder days)
  24. Read your text before you come to class. If you have read the text, new concepts and vocabulary will be less formidable and it becomes easier to decide what to write and what to skip.
  25. Try to figure out where your instructor gets lecture material. Some faculty tailor their lecture notes to fit the text. Some faculty take lecture material from one or two of their recommended readings or from their bibliography. If, within a couple of lectures, you haven't figured out where the lecture material is coming from, ask someone who has already taken the class. Most students who are active learners figure it out before the semester is over.
  26. If the instructor does take lecture material from the text, you have been blessed. Carry that heavy thing with you to class everyday and take lecture notes by highlighting as you go along.
  27. BUT - make sure you have paper and pencil ready. Most instructors will add other examples or pieces of information from time to time and you will need to jot that down.

  28. If you feel more comfortable taking your own notes all the time, that's fine. Knowing where the lecture material comes from is still valuable. If you miss a definition or a concept, you can always go to the source to fill in the blank(s).
  29. Many times, it is not necessary to write down examples, but again, know your instructor. If the example is one that may end up on an exam as a think question, write down at least the highlights of the example. If it is a "story" to create a word picture, listen rather than write - you'll remember it longer.