Studying & Writing Effectively


Note-taking begins before the class has started and ends long after the class has finished.Why take notes?

  • Taking notes will help you stay focused during lectures and labs.
  • Your notes will help you remember what was discussed in class.
  • Your notes become study material.
  • Taking notes helps you learn new information and retain it.

How can you prepare right from the start of the semester?

  • Read the course outline and understand the course objectives.
  • Identify the main topics, class schedule, due dates, grading system, and assignment/exam types.
  • Figure out how the text connects to the lectures, assignments, and exams.
  • Find a reliable student you can get notes from if you’re ill.

What can you do before each class?

  • Ask yourself what you are going to learn about during the lecture.
  • Connect what you are going to learn with what you already know.
  • Read assigned material and review previous notes.

Reflect: How much time do you typically spend getting ready for a class? Reading assigned material and making your own notes on it before class makes it easier to stay involved and identify what is important.

How can you take notes during class?

  • Determine the organizational pattern of the material.
    • Cause and effect
    • Chronological order and process
    • Comparison and contrast
    • Definition
    • Illustration or example
  • Listen and watch for clues that something is important.
    • The instructor emphasizes a concept or point through repetition or becomes excited when discussing it.
    • The instructor writes it out.
    • The instructor says, “This is important” or “This is on the exam” or “Know this.”

How can you take notes effectively?

  • Date and number each page.
  • Use headings and course heading information at the top of every page.
  • Use abbreviations and symbols (ie., defn, org., >, <, &).
  • Use your own words whenever possible. You have to understand the material to write in your own words, and it makes it easier to remember.
  • Use an outline format with headings, sub-headings, indentation, and a form of numbering to show how major and minor points are connected.
  • Use supporting information, examples, and diagrams.
  • Leave space for missed material.
  • Leave white space between sections.

Reflect: Which of the suggestions have you tried? Are there other methods you use to take notes?

How can you concentrate better in class?

  • Sit at the front to minimize distractions, see and hear the instructor and any audio/visual materials better.
  • Be interested in the course by relating it to your goals.
  • Be an active learner by taking notes, asking questions, joining in discussions, and listening to others.
  • Get enough sleep every night.

Reflect: What do you do when you feel you're losing concentration? Pay attention to the signs and have a experiment with different methods for getting back into the class.

How can you take notes during discussions or videos?

  • Write a few notes before you leave class or as soon as you can and expand on this later with your reflections.
  • Ask your instructor if this is testable material.

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