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Note Taking Skills - Writing Lab Tips and Strategies: Home

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Email us ( your paper along with the specific description of the assignment.  We will comment on the paper in regards to purpose, organizational structure, internal organization, format, and patterns of grammatical error.

Writing Lab Purpose

The goal of the Writing Lab is to equip students with the communication tools necessary to develop stronger academic writing.  Tutors do not correct, revise or edit student writing.  They aim to guide and empower students toward becoming better independent writers.  The Writing Lab is a student-to-student help available to all students desiring help with writing, including ESL tutoring.  All services are offered at no cost to students.

The Writing Lab is available to students from any discipline for help with any stage of the writing process.

Tutors focus on assignment fulfillment, content, organization, and areas for which suggestions on improvement can be made.

The Writing Lab does not proofread papers; tutors help students learn how to recognize problems or errors and self-edit.  Help is available with MLA, APA and other formatting as well as with grammar skills.

Writing resources (style/formatting manuals) and skills software are available for student use as well.

Note Taking Definition

Think of your notes as a textbook that you create—one that’s more current and more in tune with your learning preferences.

3 Purposes of Note Taking

Note-taking helps your retention and comprehension.  Research shows that 34% of information is retained when recorded, while 5% of information is retained through listening only.  Patterned notes also aid in visual memory.

Taking notes simplifies and consolidates the information you receive.

Notes help you sort through information, retaining the more important ideas and dispensing the unneeded information.


Date notes and write topic headings.

Write key words.

If it is on the board: Write it down!!

Pay close attention at the beginning and end of class.

Don't write word for word, but make sure it is understandable to you.

Make connections between what you're learning and what you know or learned from other classes.

Put question marks where you're confused.

Write down questions to ask the professor before or after class, and remember to ASK them!

Create your own style.

Incorporate different elements.

Put your thoughts in different colors or different areas to differentiate between them.

Use symbols you understand.

Use pictures or diagrams.

Separate different courses in different notebooks or sections.

Highlight important parts of your notes after the lecture to help with review.

More Tips


Get to class early, or take time before leaving for class to prepare.  Review your notes from the previous class period.  Look ahead at the topic or the chapter that the professor is going to cover this period, so you are familiar with the ideas.  Prepare to take notes by writing down abbreviations that are relevant to the topic and that you plan to use in your note taking, so that you don't have to spend time doing that during the lecture.

When in Doubt, Write it Down

This is not to say that you should write everything down.  Only, if you are debating writing something, don't spend time wondering, just write it down.  Better to have a little too much information than to waste time wondering if something is important.

Thin Your Notes

Don't write down too many words.  Leave out unimportant ones.  Use abbreviations.  Write down a list of the abbreviations you will use pertaining to the subject.  For example, if the lecture is about King Henry VIII, make a note somewhere that H = King Henry VIII.  H could stand for a lot of things, but since the lecture is about King Henry VIII, it makes sense that you should not write his name out every time he is mentioned.

Know Your Professor

Different professors have different lecture styles.  Choose a note taking style that fits well with the way your professor presents material.  For example, the Cornell method works well if you professor is using an outline to lecture from, or is otherwise very organized.  If a professor frequently jumps from topic to topic and back to previous topics, the note taking for visual learners style might be more useful.  After the first lecture of the class, show your notes to your professor.  Ask for feedback to see if you captured the main points of the lecture well.

Review Your Notes

Take a moment right after the lecture to go over your notes.  Later, test yourself on the different points.  If you review your notes interactively and at different points after the lecture, you will not have to cram the night before a big test.  This relieves a lot of test-taking anxiety!

Type or Rewrite Your Notes

Not only is this a good review, but now you have a neat copy of your notes that you can use to study.  It sounds like it will take extra time, but in the end it will save you time stressing and cramming for the final.

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Writing Lab Consultants
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Note Taking


Works Cited

Long Beach City College.  "LBCC - Taking Better Lecture Notes."  Online video clip.  YouTube.  YouTube. 11 Aug. 2011.  Web.  9 Oct. 2013.

McKay, Brett, and Kate McKay. "Write This Down: Note-Taking Strategies for Academic Success." Web log post. The Art of Manliness RSS. The Art of Manliness, 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.

WellCast.  "How to Take Great Notes."  Online video clip.  YouTube.  YouTube.  26 Oct 2012. Web. 9 Oct. 2013