During class:

Note main theme -- usually presented in first few minutes

Scribble notes quickly – don't worry about appearance

Leave a left-hand margin

Write down: main topic; supporting points; references


After class:

Rewrite/type or clarify scribbles

Fill in any missing info

Write key words in margins


To learn:

Cover up info and look only at key words

Review by reciting the info

Every week, take 30-60 min to review all notes




            It is essential that you take complete and accurate notes.  Ideally, at the end of the semester you should have compiled a virtual documentary log of all the topics discussed during the course with supporting descriptions and page references keyed to them.


            Note-taking as you read the assigned texts, on your own, is also desirable.  But if you can't do that, at the very least you should take full notes during class.  Ninety percent of the time, students who do poorly on an exam have not taken good notes—the notes are either inaccurate or incomplete.


            Note-taking is useful because it focuses your attention in class; it forces you to "write about" the material, which is one way of learning it; it keeps the material in front of you so that you can study it bit by bit rather than all at once just before the exam; and, of course, the test material is drawn directly from lectures. 


Below are some examples of how to take notes. The first and third images show how to annotate a brief text, like a poem, with marginal notations. The second image is a page of supplemental notes about the first image.