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When thinking about note-taking it is important to consider lecturing style; eg. dictation, provision of handouts, uploading resources on Ulwazi, as this may influence how you take notes. Still, taking notes is an important process as it allows you to have a written record of the lecture, make additional notes which may not be in your textbook and ensures that you have become an active and involved listener and learner. It is a good idea to review your assignments/readings before the lecture as this will better your note-taking ability.. Consider the following:

  1. Stationery: A4 note paper /exam pad, pens, pencils and highlighters.
  2. Use paper that can be filed easily - and file soon after taking notes.
  3. Preferably use one side of a sheet of paper - this allows you to review your notes side by side - usually the benefit outweighs the cost of the paper.
  4. Keep a spare pen - don't use pencil to write as this tends to fade with time.
  5. Use colour for emphasis; to highlight and to separate different sections or ideas.
  6. Sit front and centre - sit in a position where you can hear and see clearly without straining.

  1. Exchange notes with classmates
  2. Leave large empty spaces in your notes - for filling in information you missed.
  3. Consider using a voice/sound recorder.
  4. Go to a repeat lecture if you can, and where it is offered.
  5. Use your shorthand.
  6. Ask questions or ask the lecturer to slow down.
  7. See the lecturer after the lecture and show the lecturer what you missed.
  8. You don t have to take down everything the lecturer says verbatim.


Students have different methods of note-taking. See what works best for you.

  • Create space for additional notes.
  • Label, number and date all your notes.
  • Shorthand and abbreviations should be developed
  • Keep your thoughts separate - this ensures that you don't mistake your own idea for that of the lecturer's.
  • Lost signal - when you find yourself lost in a lecture, make a note of it using a specific symbol and leave space to fill this in later.
  • Write legibly: Legible handwriting can improve over time - make the effort. This has implications for both good note-taking and for writing the exams.
  • Use pictures, colors and diagrams - This makes the notes more visual and assists in recall. What you need to do is try to find a note-taking format and system that works for you.



Drawing a mind-map allows you to put many pages of information on a single chart. Start in the centre of the pages with the heading. Link all the important information, facts and ideas around it. Use keywords, symbols, shapes, patterns, images. Be creative and use colour. This can be used in conjunction with the Cornell system of note-taking or you might want to use mind maps exclusively. Advantages: Visual; contains lists and sequences and shows causes, is often easier to recall; uses both left and right brain functioning; helps one think from general to specific and puts subjects in perspective. Click to explore more about Mind Maps

You can use a standard Roman numeral outline or free-form or an indented outline to organise the information from a lecture. The outline form illustrates major points and supporting ideas. It has the major advantage of being an active process of organising incoming information.  Click for more information on the Outline System

On each page of your notes, draw a vertical line, top to bottom, 5cm from the left side of the paper. Write your notes on the right of this line and leave the area to the left of the line for key word clues and sample questions. Click for more information on the Cornell Format


Once you have taken down notes in lectures, the learning process is not complete. The next step is the note-making process. this is a subtle but useful distinction. Your lecture notes are important and form the basis of your examination preparation. The following however, should be done on a daily basis and is part of what we refer to as "note-making":

  1. Read and review your lecture notes.
  2. Underline headings and subheadings.
  3. Correct spelling mistakes and rewrite illegible portions.
  4. Fill in any gaps.
  5. Underline or highlight important sentences or paragraphs.
  6. Make sure you understand the concepts.
  7. If you use the Cornell system, fill in the keywords in the left-hand column.
  8. Integrate your lecture notes with readings from articles, prescribed and recommended books or tutorials.
  9. Mind-map summaries can be made to give you an overall picture of the topic.