Notetaking Skills: An Introduction
Listening Notetaking Strategies
Many of the strategies for reading note taking also apply to listening note
taking. However, unlike reading, you can't stop a lecture and review as you
listen (unless you listen to a taped lecture). Therefore preparation prior
to listening can greatly improve comprehension.
- Have a clear purpose
- Recognise main ideas
- Select what is relevant; you do not need to write down everything that
- Have a system for recording information that works for you
Lecture Survival Tips
Strategies to Increase Comprehension and Improve Note-Taking
Before the Lecture
- revise the previous lecture or tutorial
- pre-read about the topic
- check the pronunciation of any new words or discipline-specific language
in the pre-readings.
- rule up pages according to your note-taking system. This saves time
in the lecture.
During the Lecture
- be on time and sit near the front
- distinguish between main points, elaboration, examples, repetition,
'waffle', restatements and new points by:
- Listening for structural cues (signpost/transition words, introduction,
body and summary stages)
- Looking for non verbal cues (facial expression, hand and body signals)
- Looking for visual cues (copy the content of any visual aids used
(e.g. OHTs), note references to names and sources)
- Listening for phonological cues ( voice change in volume, speed,
emotion). Generally with more important information the speaker will
speak slower, louder and they will direct their attention to the audience.
After The Lecture
- revise lecture notes within 24 hours. Tidy up your handwriting and fill
in any missing bits. Reviewing makes remembering lectures much easier.
- write a short summary of the lecture (1 paragraph) in your own words
- attach any handouts to your lecture notes.
1. Use Symbols and Abbreviations
The use of symbols and abbreviations is useful for lectures, when speed
is essential. You also need to be familiar with symbols frequently used in
- Develop a system of symbols and abbreviations; some personal, some from
- Be consistent when using symbols and abbreviations
Some examples of commonly used symbols can be seen
in the following table (opens a new window).
These can be classified into three categories:
1. Common Abbreviations
Many are derived from Latin.
c.f. (confer) = compare
i.e. (id est) = that is
e.g (exempla grate) = for example
NB (nota benne) =note well
no. (numero) = number
etc. (et cetera)= and so on
Au for gold
Mg for magnesium
In the case of quantities and concepts, these are represented by Greek letters
in many fields.
A or a (alpha) B or b (beta)
3. Personal Abbreviations
Here you can shorten any word that is commonly used in your lectures.
Gov = government
NEC = necessary
Some abbreviations are so well known and widely used that they have become
an Acronym - an abbreviation pronounced as a word.
For example , the word 'laser' was originally an abbreviation for 'Light
Amplification by Stimulation Emission of Radiation'. It now is a noun in
its own right!
2. Use Concept Maps and Diagrams
You can set down information in a concept map or diagram. This presents
the information in a visual form and is unlike the traditional linear form
of note taking. Information can be added to the concept map in any sequence.
Concept maps can easily become cluttered, so we recommend you use both facing
pages of an open A4 note book. This will give you an A3 size page to set
out your concept map and allow plenty of space for adding ideas and symbols.
- Begin in the middle of the page and add ideas on branches that radiate
from the central idea or from previous branches.
- Arrows and words can be used to show links between parts of the concept
- Colour and symbols are important parts of concept maps, helping illustrate
ideas and triggering your own thoughts.
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