These are some practical suggestions for taking
notes for someone else, as well as strategies to help you improve your own note
- Be sure of your purpose and the speaker’s purpose.
- Attend all lectures.
- Sit up front so you can see and hear better.
- Record the date, place, topic/title and presenter.
- Number your pages.
- Use dark ink and write on one side of the page.
- Use a double entry notetaking system (see “Cornell Notetaking
- Write neatly. Make notes complete and clear enough to understand when
you come back to them.
- Use shorthand (‘Fe’ for iron, ‘=’ for equals, ‘@’ for at, etc.) and
abbreviations. Feel free to develop your own set of abbreviations, but please
put a key at the top of the page so your
notes can be understood.
- Highlight important items with asterisks(*) or draw circles or boxes
around critical info. Mark important ideas, terms, concepts with different
colors, underlines, or asterisks. Indentation, underscoring and starring are
also effective for indicating relative importance of items. Show uncertainty
with a circled question mark.
- Leave plenty of white space for later additions. Skip lines. Leave
space between main ideas.
What to write:
- Definitely copy:
- Anything written on the
board or presented on an overhead.
- Any info that is repeated or
emphasized. Ways to emphasize include: tone or gesture, repetition,
illustration on board, reference to text, and use of cue words such as:
finally, remember, most important, another cause, etc.
- All numbered or listed
- All terms and definitions.
- New words and ideas.
- If the instructor refers to the text, mark the page number in notes to
- When you cannot keep up with the speaker, jot down key nouns and verbs
so that you can return to the latter and ask questions/fill in gaps. Leave
blanks for words, phrases or ideas you miss. Ask a classmate to fill in the
- Include comments the class makes that the professor agrees with.
- Listen carefully to what is being said.
- Pay attention to qualifying words(sometimes, usually, rarely, etc.)
- Notice signals indicating that a change of direction is coming (but,
however, on the other hand)
- Look for meaning and implications; be an active listener.
- Ask questions if permitted; if not, jot down questions in your
Soon after the presentation, review your notes,
rewrite skimpy or incomplete parts, and fill in gaps you remember but didn’t