Just as there are different styles of learners, there are different types of note takers. Whatever method you choose, you should adhere to a series of rules on the note taking form and process to more efficiently and productively take notes on a lecture, presentation, film or text. The goal with note taking is to have a more brief and essential list of information to return to for study and essay writing material.

The Subject of the Note Taking

When taking notes, it is important to give the original material your full attention to not miss any key ideas or facts that belong in your notes. In the case of literature, read the text thoroughly and all the way through. In the case of a lecture, you should listen attentively to the presentation. You can also bring a recorder to record the entirety of the lecture as a reference point for your notes later.

What to Include

Take notes selectively, capturing only main points and sub-points; don't try to transcribe the entire lecture or passage. One way to identify main points is by noting repeated terms. For example, in the case of a lecture, a biology instructor may repeat the word "mutation." In a novel, the author may repeat a literary symbol throughout the text. When notating a text, be accurate to avoid plagiarism. Chapman University suggests to " ... use your own words, but try not to change the meaning. If you quote directly from the author, quote correctly."

How to Write

The fastest and most fruitful notes are created using short-hand -- avoiding complete sentences and using abbreviations when possible. For example, you can write the symbol "#" in place of the word "number." Don't be overly concerned with spelling and grammar; however, be careful not to notate in a manner that you can't comprehend when you return to it for review. Leave space between your notes so that you can go back and fill in more information later.


As you take notes, you should employ some form of organization and logic. U.C. Berkeley's student learning center advises that for lectures, " ... notes for each lecture should begin on a new page" and that you should " ... date your lecture notes and number all pages." Also, while you can use the main part of the paper for important points from the material being annotated, you can use the margins to write in your own questions and comments.