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Study Guide Part 4: Learn how to take notes for studying



Whether you are attending lectures in person or listening to online lectures or tutorials, it is important to be able to take notes effectively. This allows you to keep a record of the key areas of content being presented to you as well as provide you with a compact set of study notes for you to refer to in the lead up to assessments and exams. These notes will also provide you with a list of key terms and relevant ideas for you to integrate into your writing.

Note taking

  • Be organised and be selective!
  • Be clear on why you are reading. Is it for general subject information or are you reading for a topic specific assessment?
  • Skim the text and identify the relevant key headings. (This is where the multitude of highlighters previously mentioned will come in handy).
  • Highlight these key headings and keeping in mind why you are reading, highlight relevant information.
  • Whether you choose to hand write or type your notes, always format your notes in the same way. This provides consistency and ease of locating information when you need it.
  • Headings and columns are often useful for categorising information.
  • Highlight key points and use diagrams. These are excellent visual tools to help you to understand and better retain the new information. Using colours, columns and diagrams are particularly useful for visual learners.
  • Use a different coloured highlighter for different categories or groups of information. eg: pink for definitions, blue for statistics, green for theorists and their theories.
  • Keep your sentences short. Use dot points and lists.
  • Keep a record of references and sources for your bibliography to avoid plagiarising.
  • Look at your notes and determine the best way to organise them. For example, does your information present as ‘past and present’, ‘old and new’, ‘large structure and small internal structures within’, ‘complications and solutions’, ‘cause and effect’.
  • Organise your notes into seperate topics or chapters in your binder folder or computer.
  • Annotate! This is easily done by drawing lines out from the information you are reading to add further clarification, thought or detail.

TIP: When listening to online lectures, students are often provided with lecture slides. These slides often only have the bare essential information. A great way to make study notes when listening to a lecture is to have the lecture slides printed with no more than 6 to a page. As you listen to the lecture, annotate in the margins adding more detailed information and facts you may need to refer to later in your course.

Studying Online Study Tips