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Help to boost your grades

Why Take Notes?

Note taking is a crucial part of academic study as it will help you to recall the important points from your lectures and will help you to reflect when writing your assignments.  They can be a key to providing:

  • A useful record
  • Helping with revision
  • Helping with your understanding
  • Helping with your writing
  • Helping with your memory

But only if your notes are user friendly

Better notes will help you develop meaningful learning skills, remember the concepts, gain a better understanding of the topic and will lead to less stress when developing your assignment.  If your notes are messy and unclear; you are not going to get much use out of them.  This has nothing to do with how neat your handwriting is – It’s all about how your notes are structured.

What makes a good set of notes?

To be user friendly, notes should be:

  • Clear and easy to read
  • Help the key points to stand out
  • Easy to understand and follow
  • Well structured
  • Well organised and easy to access

What to note and how

There are different ways to make notes; find a system that suits you – try different styles of note taking.  The aim is to help your recall and understanding of what you are learning.  It ensures you are actively listening to what your tutor is saying and serves as quality review material for after the class.

  • Don’t try to write everything down
  • Note main themes, important points, theories.
  • Be brief – use key words and abbreviations
  • Avoid details you can follow up afterwards
  • Leave gaps on the page; leaving space for later additions
  • Use mind maps if this suits you better – diagrams linking concepts or ideas

Note taking in Lectures

  • Think ahead – what is the lecture likely to be about?
  • Note down any questions you have
  • Glance through any notes from the previous week
  • Concentrate on listening and understanding – rephrase in your own words so that it makes sense to you.
  • Don’t try to write everything down
  • Write in paragraphs, highlight main themes/important information

After a lecture

  • Review you notes as soon as possible
  • Fill in any gaps – clarify and amend where necessary
  • Talk through your notes with others
  • Tidy them up – draw boxes round different sections
  • Highlight key points
  • Use numbers, letters or lines to connect key points; circle stray ideas and link with an arrow to where it belongs.
  • Rework if necessary

Note taking from your reading

  • Sum up main ideas/key points in your own words
  • Keep your reading in mind and work out what information you need
  • Leave spaces and a wide margin so that you can add new information
  • Only note the information you need for the purpose.
  • Note exactly where the information comes from as you may wish to revisit or reference.
  • Carry post-it notes with you to note your ideas – stick them on a blank sheet in a plastic wallet