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Note-taking techniques

Taking notes is an important part of an active study strategy. This section looks at note-taking techniques so you can decide which are best for you. By developing your techniques you can make sure that the time you spend on taking notes is really worthwhile.

Covered in this section

  • How to take notes
  • Choosing between note-taking techniques
  • Organising your notes

It should take about 35 minutes to work through this section which includes 2 videos and 2 audio clips.

Taking notes can help you to:

  • improve your understanding by making you convert difficult ideas into your own words
  • prepare for writing fuller, better connected arguments in your essays
  • be more focused and time-efficient in your exam revision period
  • assess your own progress as you study.

If you just read passively while you study you risk 'glazing over' - your eyes seem to skate over the text without registering what it says. In contrast, material you have thought about and made notes on is much easier to remember.

There is no right or wrong way of taking notes. However, try to keep your notes brief and succinct. There is no benefit gained from trying to write everything down - your notes should reflect the main themes and the areas you have identified as important.

Many people find it effective to take notes in two stages. First you write down the main points, and then later you go back to summarise, condense and organise your notes so they are in a useful form for writing assignments or revising for exams. Revisiting your notes helps you pull together the ideas you have recorded, so you can make cross-links with earlier study. It aids your memory too.

Try to find a technique that suits you. Have a look at the techniques in this section and choose a new style of taking notes to see whether it can help you.

Last updated 4 months ago