Glendale Community College

How to Take Lecture Notes

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Editing Resources from Catalyst
Writing Conclusions

How to Take Notes
Words Used in Essay Exams


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Writing Center Director


Lecture notes will add to the information you have obtained by reading your assignments. It is more difficult to take lecture notes because you must immediately decide what information is important to write down. Taking good lecture notes can be improved by following the suggestions below and by practice.

Be Prepared When You Come to the Lecture

  • Acquire some familiarity with material to be covered by reading assignments carefully.
  • If you have an idea of what will be covered in lecture and know what to expect, you will understand how the parts of the presentation fit together.
  • You will be able to organize your notes intelligently.

Be Organized

  • Come to class a few minutes early so you will be ready when lecture begins.
  • Have pen and pencils with you.
  • Use separate section of notebook for each subject.
  • Note the date of each lecture.
  • Take notes on consecutive pages in your notebook.

Listen Critically

  • Listen to speakerís announcement of subject. (If you keep this idea in mind, it will help you decide what is important for you to write down.
  • Listen for questions that the speaker raises. (These questions focus on the most important points the speaker will discuss.)
  • Listen for main points as well as clarifying or qualifying subpoints.
  • Distinguish between facts and ideas.
  • Write down facts immediately.
  • Listen carefully as speaker develops his ideas so that you can follow his/her line of thought.
  • Summarize point s/he is trying to make. Very often this will not appear until the end.

As lecture progresses, try to tie ideas together: from readings and from lecture.

  • Listen for signal words which will announce main points and subpoints. They indicate speakers pattern of organization:
  1. Classification: dividing the whole into parts.
  2. Sequence: details given in special order
  3. Cause and effect; cause is what happened first; effect is what followed.
  4. Comparison: pointing out similarities and differences

Develop a system for taking notes

  • Be brief; Don't record everything a speaker says.
  1. Write down only information which you cannot get elsewhere.
  2. Use the time when speaker illustrates or discusses her/his main point to fill in what you have not had time to record.
  3. Write down information that the speaker emphasizes, such as data written on the blackboard.
  4. Develop your own system of shorthand.
  5. Write down mostly main words, such as nouns and verbs.
  • Record information rather than topic.
  • Organize your notes; outlining is the best method.
  • Take notes fairly constantly. (A statement may seem trivial at first but later appears important when tied to other information.)
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.
  • Review and, if necessary, rewrite your notes later the same day.

Page maintained by: Marla DeSoto  Revised 11/2/2006
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English Department at Glendale Community College