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It is helpful to prepare by taking a little time in advance of the lecture to orientate yourself:
There are various strategies you can use in your lectures that can help to make your notetaking more efficient, and more useful to you. Two approaches that can be used in all contexts to improve your listening skills are:
Develop an active listening approach:
Explore the other tabs to find out about other strategies for notetaking.
Use abbreviations to speed up your notetaking. Don't write word for word - use abbreviations or invent your own system:
& for 'and', + for 'plus', < for 'less than', > for 'more than', and = for 'equals'.
'discn' for 'discussion', or 'popn' for 'population', 'expl ' for 'exponential', or 'v.' for 'very'.
'wrt' for 'with respect to', and 'IWB' for Interactive WhiteBoard'.
for 'resulted in', for 'increased', and for 'decreased', for 'incorrect', and for 'correct'.
Unless you are being given new key terminology, aim to capture the meaning of what has been said, rather than the precise words.
So instead of a whole sentence…
'In the 20th and 21st centuries, the introduction of new digital technologies in classrooms, such as interactive whiteboards, and social media such as Twitter, have gradually increased demands on teacher's skills, leading to more stress for teachers.'… you could simply note down:
20thC intron of new tech, e.g. IWB & Twitter, teacher skills + more stress.
Gradually incorporate more abbreviations into your work. You can find more examples of standard note-taking shortcuts online (e.g. From University of Plymouth), as well as inventing and using your own.
Alternatively, you can use concept mapping. Concept maps and mind maps allow you to look for links between key subjects and get away from structure, linear notetaking in the lecture:
When making a mind map, don't worry about perfecting the layout and presentation - focus on creating an area for each topic and using arrows or icons to indicate links:
Develop a notetaking template that allows you to extract key words, terms or subheadings and gives your notes structure, such as the Cornell method:
Steps for the Cornell Method:
First set out your paper, keeping a margin on the left hand side (this will become your 'Cue' Column for review purposes), and a summary area at the end.
Then follow the 5 stages:
Stage 1: Record
Take notes, including any important information and diagrams, and relevant questions or answers.
Stage 2: Reduce
Review your notes as soon as possible, using the Cue Column to condense your notes in the fewest words or questions possible, and then summarise the notes in a couple of bullet points.
Stage 3: Recite
Cover your notes, and use only the Cue Column, see if you can talk through the whole page.
Stage 4: Reflect
Reflect on how well you understand the topic, and how useful your notes and 'cues' are. Consider whether you need to do further reading.
Stage 5: Review
You can quickly review the cue column and summary before your next lecture, or to prepare for an exam. Repetition improves your familiarity with the concepts.
Using a template or layout like this allows you to:
It's fine to use notetaking software or a digital recorder to record lectures, but please follow Hallam's 'Guidelines for students on recording teaching'.
There are several benefits to recording lectures, because you can:
The last stage of taking notes in lectures is consolidating your learning and finding a way to convert your notes into meaningful and memorable content.
How you consolidate your notes will depend on how you plan to use the information:
Bloom's Taxonomy shows increasingly complex levels of learning -
see if you can consolidate your understanding:
To convert your notes into the basis of an essay, try using a paragraph structure model or framework to translate your notes into possible paragraphs, for example:
For revision, turn your lecture notes into a versatile resource, rather than copying out and replicating information.
There are also strategies that you can use for notetaking from your reading. These are based around the use of approaches, templates, and technologies that help you to be strategic and efficient in your reading and notetaking. Explore the other tabs to find out about each strategy.
If you're struggling to make sense of an article, focus on four key overview aspects of any journal publication:
This strategy can help in making sense of the overall structure and key points from an article. For most conventional articles, context will be in the first 1/3 of the article, concepts and content in the middle 1/3, and conclusions and findings in the final 1/3.
This 5-step process is useful for helping you to keep your brain focused and active whilst you read and can be useful in preparing for exams:
Analysis tables are an effective way of taking systematic notes to allow you to identify trends in the literature and talk about multiple sources at once in your literature review.
Decide on 5-8 categories for taking notes - these can be based on the subheadings for your literature review, the structure of the article, or on ideas you have for evaluating and analysing the articles.
Try to find categories that will work across multiple articles so that you can start comparing your notes right away.
Two typical approaches are a) categories for evaluating experimental evidence from journal articles, and b) categories for analysing themes in journal articles from the social sciences:
|Link between article and essay topic|
|Strengths of methodology|
|Weaknesses of methodology|
|Examples and key quotations|
Wallace and Wray presented five critical questions which are helpful for maintaining critical questioning whilst you are reading and writing.
Make a template with the following questions, and use these to frame your reading and note-taking:
Source: Wallace, M. & Wray, A (2016) Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates. (3rd Ed) London: SAGE
Read and Write Gold is software which has features to make online reading and notetaking easier.
Read and Write Gold is available on campus through Apps Anywhere on all university desktops.
You can also visit the Assistive Technology website to book onto a training session or for online tutorial videos.