Note taking and note making by Sohail Ahmed Solangi
M.A English Literature
Before thinking about how to make notes or take notes, it is important to reflect on WHY you
would do this. There are many good reasons. The following are just some reasons. Taking an
making notes may help you to
remember important information;
clarify learning material;
keep your brain active through multi-tasking (listening, watching, writing,
have material to discuss with other students;
prepare for examinations and other tests;
gather material for assignments;
Good notes are essential for effective learning and the development of understanding
at university. If you have taken the time to make good notes you not only have a
personal resource that you can use as you revise for terms tests and exams, but you
are also more likely to have confidence in your knowledge of the topic.
Making notes about a topic involves several stages.
1) Preparing for lectures
Read the recommended
readings before the lectures
2) Taking notes from single Record information from a
sources such as a lecture,
particular source (using a
lab or the text book
strategy that suits you).
3) Reviewing lecture notes Review notes made during
the lectures (individually
and/or in small group) by
correcting, adding to, and
4) Making notes –
Construct your knowledge
Assembling more detailed
about the topic, identify the
information about a whole Structure of the topic, the
topic from several
main points or key ideas.
lectures and labs and the
Summarise or synthesise
your knowledge in ways
that you can remember it
5) Constructing a working
synthesis, précis or
Provides a general
overview of topic and the
areas that might be difficult
Provides understanding of
part of a topic - Making
links with knowledge you
already have – building on
Aids further consolidation
and understanding of
notes made during the
lecture, and provides a good
basis for revision
Helps in developing a
network of sub-topics or
parts and the links between
them until you get a sense
of the whole, and how
the whole and the parts
relate together to make
Provides basis for revision
in preparation for
The difference between note-taking and note-making:
Taking notes is only the first stage in the note-making process. It often involves writing down
information from different sources such as lectures, labs and your text book – other people’s
In contrast, note-making involves a process of personal understanding. When you make your
own notes you are learning about the topic and so you are much more likely to remember it.
This may sound time-consuming. Yet, it is much more efficient and effective in terms of
learning than trying to sort out lecture notes and read text books in great haste before an
important test or exam. It provides you with a well-prepared personal resource of information.
Summary of what you have read or heard
Key points, main arguments and ideas
Examples and evidence to support these
Your own resource of information
Compilation of different sources (lectures, readings, labs, etc)
Note taking is the practice of writing pieces of information, often in an informal or unstructured
manner. Information presented in class often contains the central concepts of the course and the
material most likely to be included on exams. Yet, students frequently do not realize the
importance of note taking and listening. While many students view note taking as an activity
conducted simply in lecture, solid note taking skills require preparation and reflection as well.
Note taking is the practice of recording information captured from a transient source, such as an
oral discussion at a meeting, or a lecture (notes of a meeting are usually called minutes). Many
different formats are used to structure information and make it easier to find and to understand,
later. The format of the initial record may often be informal and/or unstructured. One common
format for such notes is shorthand, which can allow large amounts of information to be put
on paper very quickly. Notetaking is an important skill for students, especially at
the college level. In some contexts, such as college lectures, the main purpose of taking notes
may be to implant the material in the mind; the written notes themselves being of secondary
Note-making is the process of compiling the notes you have taken from multiple sources,
lectures, readings, etc. in an organised way. There are different ways to organise your material.
The way you do this partly depends on the course you are doing.
How to make notes?
Organise your material so that it makes sense for you. For example,
make links between ideas;
use punctuation (such as exclamation marks), highlighting of certain words,
underlining, capitals, etc;
organise your material visually – sometimes pictures or diagrams are easier to
write a summary page for each topic (a bit like a contents page) and staple this
to the front of the relevant notes.
Some possible ways to make/organise notes
What works for one students, may not always work for another. Some methods
suit some learning styles better than others. Some common ways to make and organise
Cause and effect diagrams
Summaries can take different forms. Using lists of bullet points, or cues cards are just two
Tables are a good way to organise information that is clearly structured. Tables can
be organised in different ways, e.g, in:
Mind Maps are good to capture a lot of information in a visual way. Mind Mapping was initially
devised by Tony Buzan in the 1970s. Not everyone, however, finds it easy to make notes in this
Other than using Mind Maps to integrate notes, Mind Maps can also be used in other
ways, for example to:
How to make a Mind Map?
• Put the main topic/idea in the middle of the page.
• identify sub-topics and link them to the main topics.
• Add as many sub (or sub sub) topics/branches as you need to put all the different
aspects of the topic/idea on the map.
• Add symbols, pictures, colours to make it more evocative and meaningful to you.
take notes during a lecture (disadvantage: this can be difficult if you are not sure of the
structure of the lecture);
make notes during reading;
revising before exams;
getting over initial writer’s block or ‘blanks’, during exams or other situations
Concept Maps are very similar to Mind Maps. Sometimes these two names are used
inter-changeably. Sometimes concept maps:
are more structured;
depict the structure of a ‘finite’ amount of data;
less colourful with fewer, or no pictures.
Cause and effect diagrams
How to start a cause and effect diagram:
write down the effect, event or problem that you want to map;
identify the main categories that have impacted on the event/effect/problem;
under each category identify as many causes as you can think of; some causes
have sub-causes or sub sub causes.
Cause and effect diagrams (sometimes called “fishbone diagrams”) are good to map a complex
variety of contributing causes to an effect, problem, or a particular situation or event. They can
be used, for example, to chart problems, or events, or to seek contributing causes that result in a
An example of Cause & effect diagrams:
Time lines are a great tool to organise your notes and information in subjects where events, or
sequences, occur chronologically. Timelines can be two-dimensional (e.g. a date and the relevant
event that took place), or can be more than two dimensional (e.g. a date, the relevant event that
took place and events elsewhere or in a different context).
Won the medal