Lecture notes-making tips and tricks

Notes-making is the process of recording the synopsis of selected information from different sources. It can be in the form of written data or recording on a Dictaphone or phone app.

Who takes notes?

  • It could be a student attending a lecture in school/college
  • An individual visiting a library/online resource for research
  • Secretaries in office, taking down messages for preparing reports or letters

Importance of notes

Why notes are useful?

Notes-making is important especially for students. It is not only about writing down what you hear in class but absorbing the essence of the lecture and putting it down in words.

These are some ways how notes help you:

  • Concentrate better in class
  • Reduces plagiarism risks as you are taking down main points and when you elaborate, you will be using your own words
  • They are a resource for your exams
  • Learn the art of being selective while noting down key ideas
  • Grab important concepts/examples in the lecture that you may not find elsewhere
  • Improves memory as regards the topic in question

How to take notes

Making notes is not difficult. Here are a few tips and tricks to make a good job of it.

1.) Concentrate in class

Be very attentive in class. Do not miss out on a single word uttered by your professor so that you do not miss out on the key points emphasized by them.

Concentrate in class

2.) Notes-making is not word for word

Notes-making does not mean writing down each and every word uttered by the professor. Takedown what is important, such as:

  • topics highlighted by your professor
  • main points of the session
  • formulas
  • diagrams
  • phrases, etc.,

that you think are vital as regards the topic discussed in the class session. The more concise your note the better.

3.) Leave blank spaces

In case you miss out on a few points, just leave blank spaces that you can fill in the future. You can either confer with your professor or your classmates for the filling up of those vital gaps in the future.

4.) Write on one side of the paper

Keep the other side clean so that you have space to add more information if necessary.

Note taking tips: Write on one side of the paper

5.) New lecture - new notes

Make a separate note for every new lecture so that you can retrieve the correct notes for reference.

New lecture - new notes

6.) Abbreviate, symbolize

Since you have to write very fast, make use of abbreviations, symbols, mnemonics, etc.

For example, Lang. for language
“info.” for information

“&” for and

“+” for in addition

You can create your own shortcuts, but do remember what you have written else you may not be able to understand your notes when you review it later.

Abbreviate, symbolize

7.) Highlight, underline

You will require these notes till the end of the semester when you have your final exams. So, underline/highlight important points that will help in higher visibility and clarity when you have very less time to read through all the notes.

Note taking tips: use highlight, underline

8.) Avoid distractions

In the form of social media like WhatsApp, etc., when taking notes for the simple reason that you will miss out vital points during your class sessions.

Keep them in folders

Keep all the notes in folders or spring files so that you can insert any new information on the same topic in between.

Note taking tips: Keep them in folders

9.) Look up at the end of the day

Review the notes that you have taken down in class at the end of the same day. This will not only help you revise but also fill the gaps that you left empty in class.

Note taking tips: Look up at the end of the day

10.) Share notes with friends

In case you miss something in class or the class itself, your friends’ note can be a backup.

Note taking tips: Share notes with friends

11.) Try out different notes-making methods

There are many notes-making methods. Some popular ones are listed under the next head. One thing to note is that each person has a different style of taking notes and you need not follow popular methods but adopt only the method that you are comfortable with.

Try out different notes-making methods

12.) Dictaphone helps

In case you are a slow writer, take the help of a Dictaphone and record what is being said. One can use smart phones that have apps to do this also.

Dictaphone helps

What should notes include?

Your notes should have the following:

  • Date of lecture, name of the main topic
  • Key points
  • Examples, diagrams
  • Highlighters, mnemonics for a quick review
  • Gaps to add more information in the near future
  • Summary of the session

Notes-making methods

1. Cornell note-taking

This format was devised by Walter Pauk in the1940s. It is a popular and organized method of notes-making. The page layout in this method is helpful for retrieving information in the future.

Make a table in your notes in the following manner of a rough ”I”

A) Topic
B) Date

C) Mention key idea or main information here




D) Write Notes here





formulas and other details

E) Summarize here. Also, any queries you want to ask your professor at the end of class.

The above table explained

A) Topic: Will have the heading

For example – the solar system

B) Date: Mention the date when you are making your note here

C) Key ideas: The key idea will go here

For example, you can write 1) Mercury, 2) Venus, etc.

D) Notes: Here you can write details corresponding to the keyword

For example, 1) Details regarding Mercury or 2) details regarding Venus

E) Summary: In the final rectangle write the summary of the whole lecture. You can also write down any queries you want to ask at the end of the class.

This is one of the best methods in use - clear and systematic. Reviewing time is less as you can get to your requirement in a quick time.

The only difficulty in this method is in the time taken for

i. preparing the format and

ii. summarizing

2. Outline method

It is very popular and easy. In this method, you just take down important points in the form of bullets

Subtopics after indenting with another color bullet


  • Solar System
  • Mercury

Though this method is easy and highlights key points of the lecture, it is not useful for subjects where formulas, diagrams, charts, etc., play an important role.

Outline method

3. Boxing method

This method is best for students with iPads. The most popular notes-making App is GoodNotes. Just take notes randomly on your iPad and later box them digitally.

The advantages are:

  • segregation of topics in different boxes
  • You need not look into all the data, just your requisite data in the self-named box

The biggest con of this method is that everybody may not use iPads. Grouping is also a time-consuming activity.

Boxing method

4. Mapping method

Some people prefer mapping method. The notes are in the form of branches of a tree. The main point is divided further and further into branches and sub-branches.

For example:

Living things are divided into two

Plant Kingdom Animal Kingdom

Gymnosperms Angiosperms

It is a good method for recording objective data, such as dates/formulas, etc., that you need to memorize.

Some cons are:

  • The mapping may go on for pages and you may lose track in between
  • Sometimes wrong placing may be confusing

Mapping method

5. Charting method

This method uses lots of columns and rows for representation. The information in this format is very structured.

Anybody can understand the information recorded by just glancing at the information.

But the time taken for drawing all the columns and rows is one of the major drawbacks of this method.

Charting method

How to develop notes-making skills

The above are some basic methods. But one can develop their own methods. A combination of the above methods could also be adopted.

The only points to be remembered before making notes are:

  • Notes should not be messy or it may lead to confusion
  • Should be clear for review at any time in future
  • Should represent all the happenings in a lecture
  • Easy to prepare

To achieve notes-making skills

To achieve this, you should go prepared to class with your notebook and brief background research on the topic.

Also, check previous notes.

Sit in the front to hear clearly

Remember that the notes have to survive the whole semester and help you when you are preparing for your final exams.

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