Note-Taking Tips Part 1: Keeping Your Notes Organized OEDB’s 100 Ways Your iPod Can Help You Learn

Note-Taking Tips Part 2: What to Write

March 11th, 2008 admin


You can’t copy down an entire lecture, word-for-word. If you did, you probably wouldn’t be able to focus on the content; you’d be much too busy trying to get all the words down. That’s why it’s important to know which information to keep, and which to let go.

Drawings, Diagrams, and Charts.

If you’re a visual learner (like me!) you should try to copy down as many of the graphs & charts your teacher shows as possible. In fact, if something isn’t making sense, it wouldn’t hurt to make up your own diagrams and charts, too. Imagery such as diagrams (like the internal workings of the kidney), as well as flow charts of processes (like how a bill becomes a law) can be easier to visualize during tests.

Charts and graphs are one thing you don’t always need to copy down. Often times they are used simply to underscore a key point. However, if your professor tends to use lecture material heavily in tests, those charts or graphs could pop up again, and you’ll want them to look familiar!

Read the Professor.

One of the best ways to know what information is important is to key in on your professor’s verbalization and attitude (as the NY Times wisely suggests). Your professor will give you hints about what is important, so watch out for topics that cause the following:

  • Louder speaking voice
  • Increasingly zealous body language (like arm-waving, pointing, etc.)
  • Verbal clues (lots of professors will actually say, “This is important!” or “You don’t need to copy this down.”)
  • Visual clues (like circling something, drawing on an overhead/laptop, adding a star, etc.)
  • Repetition of certain words, phrases, or concepts
  • Asking the class to repeat something back

All the above indicators mean he/she is talking about something important, so be sure you write it down and LEARN it!

(Also check out Note-Taking Tips Part 1: Keeping Your Notes Organized)

photo: Paper clips by Fran GC

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kayla  |  March 19th, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I bought a laptop earier this year for university. I was thinking about bringing it to my classes in the fall to take notes. I’m a better/ faster typer then I am writing things out by hand.

    Are there any good reasons why I shouldn’t bring a laptop to class or is it just a preference thing?

    I also have another question. I was reading back a few blogs about roomates. I’m an only child raised by my mother. What I want to know is how do you do the whole “having to get changed” thing? I mean my roomate is going to be a complete stranger. I’m overweight and I’m not comfortable with my body. Should I goto the bathroom to change all the time?

  • 2. Jamie  |  March 19th, 2008 at 9:59 am


    Laptops: Whether or not you bring your laptop to class is totally personal preference. I usually took mine, but I also noticed that it was a distraction–I finished the notes faster, and then I’d chat with my friends or email or facebook until the next slide came up. So if you’re easily distracted, it might be better to stick to taking notes by hand.

    Changing: Its different with every roommate. Luckily my roomie and I were both discrete about changing. We had big closet doors that swung out, and we’d usually each go behind our doors to change. You’ll probably be able to figure out some way to change without having to leave the room, so scope out your dorm room for ideas–you won’t want to have to head to the bathroom every time you want to change. Also, most people are pretty understanding that you don’t want to change in front of them, so worst case scenario, ask your roommate to turn away. I would have no problem doing that for my roommate.

  • 3. University Student Articles  |  April 6th, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Learn to do mindmapping on a note form basis and that way you can identify the key areas and the areas that arnt essential but will still help.

  • 4. 10 Steps to Active Learni&hellip  |  April 15th, 2008 at 2:09 am

    […] “Rework your notes” – Initial sets of notes are building blocks to help create a main structure. After getting the notes together, it’s time to shape them into something workable. The first […]

  • 5. Jake  |  May 20th, 2008 at 7:53 am


    Jamie makes a good point: as long as you’re not easily distracted they’re a great asset in the classroom. I personally use NoteScribe as my note-taking software on my computer for school and work and it helps keep me organized. I think the advantage of being able to type far faster than one can write would be great. Also, it’s much easier to find what you’ve written quicker utilizing keywords, or global searches. For me, the organization of electronic notes works far more effectively than having notebooks or articles scattered in front of me.


  • 6. Saket Jain  |  March 17th, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I too type faster than I write…but I encounter problems while reading. I just can’t seem to read off laptops or screens for that matter…

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