Lecture and Note Taking Tips
Does pre-reading a
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
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
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
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
Are main ideas
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
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
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.