- Learn to recognize and record important information while
listening to lectures, participating in class activities, and reading text
books and other materials
- Learn to organize notes
Tips for Taking Notes
Learning about other cultures, great works of art and music,
and the chemistry that makes us tick can be exciting--and dizzying. The
best way to manage this deluge of information is to take clear, detailed,
concise, and organized notes. Here is a strategy that I have developed for
studying literature; you can adapt this strategy to study other subjects,
- While reading, place a star in the margin of the book
next to passages that reveal important information about the plot, setting,
characters, themes, or literary devices. Write a brief comment next to
the passage. Examples: *Nebraska, *card game, *fight, *community, *symbol
- Bring your book and notebook to class. During lectures
and group exercises, write in your notebook any names, dates, terms, and
ideas that your professor and classmates mention. Pay especially close
attention to anything that the professor repeats, writes on the board,
or mentions in handouts or study questions. Try to organize this information
in a rough outline. For example, if the professor defines the term "sonnet,"
write this term along the left margin; below the term, move over a half-inch
or so and make a list of the characteristics of a sonnet, placing a dash
before each characteristic. Place a star next to passages that your professor
and classmates note as important. Finally, include an example you can use
to illustrate the term. Example:
- *-14 lines
- *-iambic pentameter
- *-rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg (English)
- -originated in Italy; English poets adapted it
- -used by Shakespeare, Donne, and others
- -example: Yeats's "Leda and the Swan"
- Optional: Bring your notes
to a computer. Make sure you have a dictionary and, if possible, a subject encyclopedia nearby.
Using the outline function
in a word-processing program such as Microsoft Word or Corell WordPerfect,
type the notes from your notebook, as well as key passages you noted in
your text book, followed by the numbers of the pages on which they appear.
As you input this information, make any necessary changes in organization,
add some of your own ideas, and use the dictionary and subject encyclopedia
to define important words and terms. If your professor has given you study
questions on the material, practice answering--either in your head or in
writing--some of these questions by referring to the material in your notes.
If you don't have any study questions, simply think about questions someone
might ask you about the material and consider ways you might use the information
in your outline to answer such questions. Save this
outline on a diskette, back it up on a separate diskette, and print a copy
that you can place in your notebook. This extra step, while time-consuming,
has three benefits. The most important benefit is that it gives you the
opportunity to review and synthesize the material you have covered, especially
when you take time to reorganize the information and add your own ideas.
Typing your notes in an outline also makes them neater and thus easier
to read. Finally, storing this information in the form of a computer file
allows you to find information very easily. For example, you can use the
in the word-processing software to find a term or a character's name in
- Review your notes, both new ones and old ones, at least
twice a week. If possible, do this reviewing immediately before class.
Of course, this process requires a lot of time, but it
dramatically improves your ability to absorb the material covered in reading
assignments, lectures, class discussions, and group activities. Remember
that your long-range success depends not on the amount you read or hear,
but the amount you understand and retain.
"The Power of Note Taking" in Study Skills
for Learning Power
"The Power of Reading for Meaning" in Study
Skills for Learning Power