Taking good notes is key to academic and professional success. Not only do the notes help you recall the important points of a lecture or meeting when it comes time to prepare for a test or write a report, the very act of writing the information down helps imbed it in your memory.
Stick to the main points. Don't try to write down everything that is said. You will just become frustrated, and you might miss out on more important points.
Listen carefully to the speaker's tone of voice. Intonation is a very good indicator of what is most important. When it comes to the points he really wants you to understand -- the points that will most likely show up on an exam -- he will usually slow down his speech, enunciating key words. Often, he will repeat himself to make sure you get it. Sometimes professors will even give you blatant clues such as, "This would make a good exam question."
Develop your own form of shorthand. When you're taking notes in class or at a meeting for work, you will eventually encounter some of the same terms over and over. When you do, simply abbreviate them. Use context clues if you have trouble deciphering them later. However, don't overdo the shorthand. When you're studying, you want to concentrate on the meat of the topic, not on deciphering what you wrote.
Keep your notes together and organized chronologically or by topic. Note the date and class or meeting topic at the top of the page, numbering any subsequent pages.
Look over your notes as soon as possible after the class or meeting. Use this time to fill in anything you might have missed or to research something you didn't quite understand. Highlight the key terms as you encounter them in your notes.
- Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images