Lecture and Note Taking Tips

Does pre-reading a textbook chapter help note-taking?

Yes! Often an instructor’s classroom lectures will follow the topics in the order in which they appear in the textbook. By pre-reading your textbook chapters, you will be sufficiently familiar with the material in the lecture so that you can anticipate points and easily follow the development of the topic.

How do you cope with a lecturer who talks much too fast?

Use a two-page system. On the left-hand page record only the main ideas in a bold, non-formal way. Make sure that you grasp the key words. Immediately after the lecture, as well as during lulls in the lecture itself, record as many pertinent details as you can on the right-hand page. Record the details opposite the main ideas which they support. In effect you will have a fairly full lecture in brief form on the left, which will be easy to study for a review, and a full page of supporting details on the right.

Should you type your lecture notes?

Definitely not! Time is one ingredient that college students never have enough of. One sure way to waste time is to do the same job twice. The mind cannot concentrate on two activities simultaneously as with typing and studying. Typing is a hard task requiring one’s full concentration; so is studying. So do it right the first time. Write legibly!

Should you take your lecture notes in shorthand?

No! Before you can study the ideas and facts, the short- hand notes must be transcribed. Transcribing and typing take a lot of energy and time with little or no learning taking place during the process. You are not in the class- room to record the lecturer’s every word; rather, you are there to capture his ideas. Besides, after taking notes in longhand, you can study immediately. Shorthand notes are no good until transcribed.

How about using tape recorders or cassettes.

Don’t use tape recorders or cassettes. This practice sounds like a good idea, but it isn’t. When the lecture is on tape, you cannot review the lecture in five or ten minutes as other students can; you have to replay the entire tape. If you take notes later by replaying the lecture, you have wasted valuable time. You could have done the note-taking in class in the first place. Besides, if you have only tapes, review will take as much time as the original series of lectures, and you have done no work of your own in organizing and really learning ideas.

How much more remembering is achieved when review is permitted?

In one experiment, a group that reviewed immediately after a lecture recalled one and a half times more than a group that had no review. The groups were tested six weeks after the lecture.

What can we learn from research?

First, note-taking of any kind does not interfere with listening and comprehension. Second, when a student studies his lecture notes using the recitation method, he will remember one and a half times more after six weeks than students who did not review. Third, when a students has no notes, or does not study his notes, he will have forgotten approximately 80 percent of the lecture by the end of two weeks.

From these findings we can logically conclude that the student who takes copious notes, then studies them using the recitation method, not only directly after the lecture but also several additional times before an examination, would stand a good chance of remembering between 90 and 100 percent of the material.

Are main ideas enough?

No! Main ideas and general statements are not very valuable without the sub-ideas, details, and examples that provide the underpinnings. The point to remember is to come away from the lecture with enough information to form a full-bodied concept.

In taking notes, should notes be in your own words?

Not necessarily! Remember, the purpose is to record the lecturer’s ideas for later study, so capture the ideas in any way that is best for you. Don’t wasted valuable time trying to find fuzzy synonyms for the lecturer’s precise words.

Should you reflect on the ideas during a lecture?

No! If you stop to reflect on idea number one, the chances are great that when your mind finds its way back to the on-going lecture, you will hear the lecturer say, “And idea number four is . . . “ Reflection is valuable but must be done later. Your job in the classroom is to capture the ideas on which to reflect outside of class. It’s a matter of priority.

Should you make a note on the instructor’s headings?

Yes! To have well-organized notes, you need to listen attentively to detect the instructor’s main headings and sub-headings. You can then list under these headings the ideas, facts, examples, and details.