Making notes at university will help you to make sense of what you are learning and to remember it later. Note-making is a skill that grows with practice.This section includes:
- Tips for making notes
- Guide to reading and noting
- Note-making styles
- Making notes in lectures
- Try making your own lecture notes
Third-year English literature
Make notes, make notes! I'm not really a person who is naturally inclined to make notes. In English there's loads of people that have different coloured felt-tip pens and make these beautiful pages of notes and I'm the opposite of that as I often just don't make notes. But it's good to just start making notes in a lecture because once you've got into the habit, say if you've missed the first 20 minutes and you haven't made any notes you feel less and less inclined unless something is really important or interesting to put it down. But making notes engages you with what's going on, it's like an activity to do that keeps you awake, keeps your mind active and things are often useful that you don't think are useful at the time when you go back to write an essay. I realise this actually in the third year looking back on my first and second years because by second year I wasn't really making that many notes and often there'd be an infuriating moment when I was writing an essay thinking, ‘What was it that person said in that lecture?' and I just couldn't remember. In fact, one of my friends records all the lectures he goes to so that was a god send, so that's another good thing to do.
Third-year Chemistry student
When you make notes the first time round, often it is bit rushed in lectures but if you take the time to go back through them again, even before you start revising for exams, and write out what you've written down and make sure you understand it, it really helps me, particularly for certain chemistry reactions where you need to know exactly where things go. If you've made a little mistake it is better to find out sooner, when you are copying out your notes again, rather than later, just before your exam when you find out you have learnt it wrong.
Why make notes at university?
When making notes you should always consider why you are making notes and how you will use them. Here are some examples of how notes can help you with your university study:
You cannot retain all of the information you will be exposed to as a student. The act of writing something down can help you to focus on it and remember it. You can refer back to it later to check your memory.
Keep a record for future reference
You will be able to return to any notes you take in lectures or from borrowed library books.
Summarise and highlight key points
To help you to understand, process, and interact with new ideas at university you will frequently need to identify the key points or arguments in a text or from a lecture. You will also be required to condense a chapter or argument in your own words so you can easily refer back to it later.
Revise and prepare for exams
Notes form an essential part of preparing for exams and presentations. You may also refer back to notes in later years of study.
Reorganise material in a way that makes sense to you.
Plan and write assignments
Your notes form the basis for written work and are a helpful way of setting out your initial ideas.
Making notes can make you feel very productive. However, sometimes students find they waste time copying out information which they never use again. As a rule of thumb, when writing an essay you should use around 85% of your notes.
The text resources in this section of the website have been adapted from materials originally produced by CA Thomas.