Taking Notes at Lectures

11 Apr


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


Alhamdulillaah, i found this! This might be beneficial for those who are in colleges & universities. 🙂



Active Listening – What to Write Down and What to Ignore

20th June 2009 by Marilyn Michaud
Most students write too much. Learning to listen more and write less not only produces better lecture notes, but also improves memory and reduces stress.

Taking effective notes at lectures is a vital skill for college and university students. Good notes improve memory, increase concentration, and help students prepare for those all important exams. Yet, many students panic because they try to write too much and end up missing the most valuable points. Learning to listen actively can reduce the stress and result in relevant, more comprehensive notes.


What is Active Listening?

Active listening at lectures means trying to anticipate what will be said and posing questions rather than passively writing down words without thinking about them. Students can be active before, during and after a lecture by a) reading any required material ahead of time; b) posing questions; and c) reviewing and condensing their notes after the lecture is over.

Some questions to ask before a lecture include “What is the lecture about?”, “What do I already know about the topic?” Students who arrive at a lecture with little or no idea about the subject often have difficulty deciding what to write down. Being prepared by reading the required material or previous lecture notes beforehand increases understanding and reduces the amount of writing needed.

Active listening also means posing questions during a lecture such as: “What is the structure of the lecture?”, “What are the main ideas?”, “What is the evidence?”, or “What does this word or phrase mean?” Attempting to actively understand the material not only prevents the mind from wandering, it also develops critical thinking skills. Ultimately, greater understanding of the topic leads to better essays and higher exam grades.


What to Write Down During Lectures?

Listening for how a lecture is structured is important. Like an essay, most lectures have an introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction will outline what the lecture is about and in what order the information will be delivered. The body will contain the main ideas, arguments and evidence, and the conclusion will summarise the main points and perhaps pose questions for further consideration.

Because the introduction is usually an outline of what is to come, it is not necessary to start taking notes at this stage. It is more important to listen carefully to how the lecture is structured and what the main points will be. This provides valuable information on how to structure lecture notes and what questions to ask. Lecturers may also let students know what handouts or electronic notes are available which can also reduce the amount of writing required.

The main body is usually the longest and most important part of the lecture and is when most notes should be taken. To help students know what to write down, lecturers will often provide verbal cues that signal an important point. These cues may include repetition, spending more time on one point, and using certain words and phrases for emphasis.

Words and phrases such as: “The main point is”, “Remember that”, “An important consideration is” or “Significantly” signal important pieces of information that need to be written down. Lecturers may repeat points more than once or provide a number of examples to ensure understanding. Listening carefully for these cues can reduce the amount of writing needed and ensure only the most important information is recorded.

Other common signal words to listen for include:

  • “For example”, “For instance”
  • “First”, “Second”, “Third”
  • “Similarly”, “Also”
  • “On the other hand”
  • “In contrast”
  • “However”
  • “In conclusion”
  • “To summarise”


After the Lecture

The process of note-taking does not end with the lecture. Active listening also means reviewing and discussing notes with others and adding any information missed. After the lecture is when questions raised are followed up on, unfamiliar terms or concepts are defined, and readings for the next lecture are prepared.

Getting the most out of lectures requires preparation and strong active listening skills. Being actively involved in the selection and recording of information builds memory and concentration while listening carefully for structure and important key words and phrases will not only result in more effective notes, but will also greatly reduce stress and anxiety.

p/s: I strongly advise reading on these topics. May Allah bless you.

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Posted by on 11 April 2011 in Perkongsian


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