Attending lectures, absorbing information, studying and applying your understanding to assignments is all part of the learning process. But figuring out how to ensure your notes are useful, organised and easy to understand is a skill that takes practice.

Why even bother with note-taking though? Can’t you just remember?

Humans like to think they will remember everything a teacher has said and what each dot point on those PowerPoint slides will mean but unfortunately that’s just not true. That’s where note-taking comes in. Note-taking is a tool that allows you to personalise your notes, makes sure you are actively engaging and listening to your teacher, helps you make connections between topics and lets you review the material after class.

So, what are some ways to effectively take notes? Let’s break it down into four parts.

1. Have a purpose

Why are you taking notes? How are they different from the source material? Try to focus on key points or issues raised by a teacher during a lecture, noting linking topics and highlighting areas of confusion. It’s also a good idea to read through your assessment task before you start researching and making notes for your assignment.

2. Use a technique

There are many techniques!

Try the ‘Cornell’, ‘Outline,’ ‘Mapping,’ or ‘Chart’ method. You can even make up your own and stylise it however you want.

3. Review and improve your notes

Check your notes and reflect on them.

Would abbreviations and symbols get the same point across and save space? Eg. An arrow to indicate -> relationships.

And don’t waste the effort of taking notes by leaving them crushed and unread in the corner of your desk. Studies show people that don’t review 24 hours after their class will forget 40 percent of information and that moves up to 60 percent after 24 hours.

4. Make your notes visual

Making your notes visual through techniques such as flow charts, concept maps, Venn diagrams and more is a great way to make the knowledge learnt more memorable and comprehensible. Images can add clarity, structure and connect pieces of information so you can effectively recall what you learnt at a glance.

Check out Griffith’s make effective notes webpage and attend our workshops to put your note-taking skills into practice.