Skills Hub


Making notes in lectures

Lectures are an important part of undergraduate courses. They provide an excellent framework for further study. Making notes can help you to concentrate on the lecture. 

Lecture recordings can be a helpful study tool, especially for revision: see Using lecture recordings for how to make the most of them.

Before the lecture

1. Do some background reading. Check the lecture topic and do any suggested reading. If you have questions, bring them to the lecture.

2. Work out how the lecture fits into the module.

3. Look at handouts. Your lecturer may have uploaded notes to Canvas for you to read before the lecture. They may be useful as a basis for your own notes. You can annotate them with your own thoughts.

In a lecture, you should switch your phone to silent and do not talk. Only use your devices for making and viewing notes - or as directed by the lecturer. If you wish to record the lecture, ask permission first. Many lecturers record their lectures and make them available to you anyway.

During the lecture

1. Arrive early. Don't miss the beginning of a lecture since that is often the most valuable part. The lecturer may review previous lectures or outline objectives and the lecture structure. If you get distracted easily, sit near the front.

2. Label your notes - including the title and date of the lecture - and keep track of your page numbers. This will help you find information later on.

3. Make your own notes. Don't rely on your lecturer's notes or notes written by friends. Writing your own notes will improve your understanding.

4. Organise your notes. Leave plenty of space so that you can easily add to your notes later. You could use a ring-binder for notes or create a system of files and folders on your laptop or through your university login.

Alternatively, you could use a digital note-making tool like OneNote or Evernote. These tools allow you to tag your notes with key terms, making them easily searchable.

5. Do not attempt to write everything down. It is unnecessary to reproduce the contents of a lecture exactly. Your notes should be an interpretation of the material. Try to capture the logic of the argument or key points of information. Use headings and sub-headings in your notes to make this clear. Lecturers often provide guidance about the structure and format of their lecture. Listen for phrases such as ‘there are three key reasons for x' or ‘it is essential to note that y'.

6. Note questions and points you do not understand. Follow these up through individual research, in a tutorial or during your tutor's office hours.

7. Include details so that your notes will make sense to you when you read them. Write specific examples that will help you remember key points and label graphs, tables or charts.

8. Don't leave early. During the last 10 minutes or so, the lecturer may helpfully repeat points, draw conclusions and summarise material.

After the lecture

1. Look up new terms. Check spelling, meaning and appropriate use. Review your notes as soon as possible - you can ask yourself these questions:

• Have I accurately recorded all main points?
• How were these developed?
• How do they relate to each other?
• Which issues were clarified?
• What will be discussed in the next tutorial/seminar?
• Can I summarise the material in one paragraph?
• Do I have further questions to discuss in class?

2. Reflect on your notes. Lectures are often a one-way process, so discussing your notes with other students will help you to understand them more fully.

3. Avoid recopying your notes. This wastes time; it's best to make good notes in the first place. However, if you take handwritten notes, itcan be useful to type them up. During the process, you can reflect on the lecture and reinforce what you've learnt while organising your notes in a structured way. You could use tools such as WordGoogle DocsOneNote or Evernote.

Tips on taking notes in lectures

Download tips on taking notes in lectures as PDF file

Next page - Try making your own lecture notes