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Academic Resource Center (ARC)

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Note Taking

  • Take notes in a spiral notebook, using a separate notebook for each course or in a binder where pages can be inserted and rearranged. Write your name, address, and phone number in each notebook. Write your lecture notes leaving a wide margin on the left for writing probable test questions, key words, or additional notes.
  • Label, number, and date all notes. Develop the habit of labeling and dating to integrate reading and lecture notes.
  • Use blank space. Notes tightly crammed into every corner of the page are hard to read and difficult to use for review. Give your eyes a break by leaving plenty of space.
  • Write down the major ideas and statements in the lecture. Don't try to write down every word; instead, use key phrases and ideas. Underline ideas that your instructor emphasizes.
  • Use a "lost" signal. No matter how attentive and alert you are, you might get lost and confused in a lecture. If it is inappropriate to ask a question, record in your notes that you were lost.
  • Use standard abbreviations. Be consistent with your abbreviations. If you devise your own abbreviations or symbols, write a key explaining them in your notes.
  • After the lecture, review notes as soon as possible and fill in missing ideas, key words, and phrases. Underline headings that are of major significance. You may also wish to compare your notes with a friend's to see what you may have missed. The sooner and more frequently you review notes after lecture, the more you retain.
  • After each lecture, take several minutes to turn your notes into questions, focusing on the main theme and sub topics. Each lecture will usually supply three to seven good exam questions. The questions should be written in the left hand margin.
  • At least once a week, review the questions written in your notebook. Pretend you are taking a test, give yourself an oral quiz, or even better, practice by taking a written quiz. Compare your answers with those given in your notes or textbook.