“The more content you try to capture during a lecture or a meeting, the less you’re thinking about what’s being said. You burn through most of your attention parroting the source.”

Do you sometimes struggle to determine what to write down during lectures? Have you ever found yourself wishing you could take better or more effective notes? Whether you are sitting in a lecture hall or watching a lecture online, note-taking in class can be intimidating, but with a few strategic practices, anyone can take clear, effective notes. This handout will discuss the importance of note-taking, qualities of good notes, and tips for becoming a better note-taker.

In-class benefits

Taking good notes in class is an important part of academic success in college. Actively taking notes during class can help you focus and better understand main concepts. In many classes, you may be asked to watch an instructional video before a class discussion. Good note-taking will improve your active listening, comprehension of material, and retention. Taking notes on both synchronous and asynchronous material will help you better remember what you hear and see.

Post-class benefits

After class, good notes are crucial for reviewing and studying class material so that you better understand it and can prepare appropriately for exams. Efficient and concise notes can save you time, energy, and confusion that often results from trying to make sense of disorganized, overwhelming, insufficient, or wordy notes. When watching a video, taking good notes can save you from the hassle of pausing, rewinding, and re watching large chunks of a lecture. Good notes can provide a great resource for creating outlines and studying.

  1. Gather your note-taking materials. It may sound pretty basic, but it’s important to have all of your note-taking materials organized and ready to go before the start of any class, meeting or lecture.
  2. Come prepared. Before you come to a class, lecture, or meeting, make sure to review your notes from the last time round. This will bring you fully up to speed and ready to pick up where you left off.
  3. Be an active listener. When note-taking, many people make the mistake of mindlessly taking down every word, without really comprehending what is being said. Instead, make an effort to understand the topic while you’re in class. Focus on what’s really being said, then ask questions if you don’t understand
  4. Take notes by hand. Although taking notes on your laptop is convenient, research shows note takers actually retain information better when they take notes by hand. This may be because people typing on a laptop tend to transcribe every word without understanding the meaning, while people writing by hand are forced to pick out relevant information in order to keep up
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you come across something you don’t understand, don’t just jot it down and tell yourself that you’ll worry about it later — ask the teacher/lecturer for clarification.


Follow up after class

Part of good note-taking includes revisiting your notes a day or so after class. During this time, check for clarity, fill in definitions of key terms, organize, and figure out any concepts you may have missed or not fully understood in class. Figure out what may be missing and what you may need to add or even ask about. If your lecture is recorded, you may be able to take advantage of the captions to review.