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Note taking methods

One of the challenges of university is figuring out how to take good notes in lectures without losing track of what is being said.

When it comes to taking notes in lectures, you need to figure out what works for you. Here are some recognised methods, but if you have one that works for you then go with it.

1. The Outlining method
This method involves using indentations, bullet points or numbers to visually distinguish the difference between main points, sub-points and details. You can make this method more effective by using different coloured pens, capitalisation or highlighters.


2. The Cornell Method
This method involves having 2 columns – one for the main point, theory, learning outcome, and the second for your notes, key-words or questions. At the end of each page with this method, it is suggested that you write a brief summary.


3. The Mind-map method
This method is one that you either love or hate. It involves putting the keyword, main point or learning outcome in the centre of the page and making branches that go from this main point to sub-points, details etc. The trick to making this successful is to make sure you leave enough room for all of your points and to use a separate mind-map for each point.


4. The Charting method
This method involves using a table to make your notes. You can have separate columns for main points, questions, details etc. This method pretty much involves you classifying your information so you can easily access it.


Watch the following helpful video on notetaking.


Note taking tips

  • Always use your own words – translating points into your own words helps with information retention and understanding.
  • Use white space to your advantage by separating major points or emphasising sections.
  • Don’t try and use as little space as possible – spread out, even if you only have one main point per page.
  • Develop your own type of shorthand to abbreviate your word/sentences. An example of this will be writing MB instead of Māori Business.
  • It can also be a good idea to maintain a glossary as part of your note taking for words that are important, or words you don’t understand and intend to look up.