Taking Lecture Notes

We will examine what you do BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the lecture.


Read your textbook: Look at course framework: Be prepared:
Study thoroughly, section by section. The lecture can clarify and serve as a reviewOK:
Survey the chapter, skim, and ask yourself questions you would like to have answered during the lecture.
How is the text arranged?Will tests tend to be objective or subjective?

Is there outside reading?

What are the assignments & grading policies? If more stress is on papers, look for topics during lectures.

Bring a loose-leaf notebook with pockets; prepare pages ahead of time using the Cornell Method.Get to class at least 5 minutes early with 2 pens (not pencils).

Sit in the small square directly in front of the instructor. There is a high correlation between student success and seating.



  • Put the topic and date at the top of the page.
  • Use a modified outline form; abbreviate.
  • Put the main ideas against the line; indent & number details.
  • It is better to err on the side of writing too much than too little.
  • Write on one side only.
  • Circle unfamiliar words; mark confusing ideas.
  • Always take notes in math/science, be sure to write down all the steps; divide problems by drawing lines across the page.


  • Remain open-minded to instructor/lecture style.
  • Deductive (general to specific)
  • Inductive (specific to general)
  • Topical (e.g., a history lecture may approach an historical period from a political, economic, and cultural point of view).
  • Random.
  • Be an active listener.
  • Participate in discussions.
  • Ask questions (If you don’t understand, ask for another explanation, the board, examples, etc.)


  • Learn to cope.
  • After a confusing lecture, refer back to your text; if you remain confused, see your instructor.
  • You may need to accept delayed cognition-you may not be able to understand every bit of information as it is introduced, which is one of the reasons you need to look over your notes as soon as possible.


Within 24 hrs. do the following:

  • Label/date each page.
  • Underline essentials in red, fill-in gaps.
  • Write headings/key words/ questions in margins.
  • Optional: Write a brief summary.
  • Relate lecture notes to text, look for overlap, transfer from text to lecture notes. Look at questions and headings and RECITE.
    • You may do this questioning yourself about concepts/vocabulary.
    • You may try mapping certain sections.
    • You may recopy only if absolutely necessary.

Review often:

  • Look at the preceding lecture notes carefully before class.
  • Look over notes before beginning any new study session.
    • Good for establishing continuity.
    • Reminds you of questions you need to ask.
    • Transfers knowledge to long-term memory