Note Taking

Note takingWhatever it is that you are studying, it is your job to sift through the world of information and resources available to arrive at your own understanding of any problem with which you are presented. Choosing when and how to make notes is one crucial part of this work of sifting.

Taking good notes is a way to save yourself time and effort in the longer term. Your notes will help to make sure you have all the information close at hand when you really need it later on. Active note-taking will also help you to understand, recall and represent ideas, concepts and information in a range of different ways, which can help with recall and synthesis of material. It is important to remember that different people find different note-making strategies work best for them, so it is important to experiment and develop a systematic approach that works for you.

Cornell Method

  • Cornell MethodDivide your page into three with a margin and a bottom bar. During the lecture, take notes in right-hand (further notes) column, using your usual techniques
  • After the lecture/seminar, pick out keywords based on the notes in the right-hand column. Write these in the left-hand (cue) column. Writing these keywords helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships and summarise information
  • After class, cover the note-taking column with a sheet of paper. Then, looking at the keywords in the left-hand column only, use the space at the bottom of the page to summarise the most important information
  • Reflect on the material by asking yourself questions. For example: Does my summary match the notes in the right-hand column? Does the information make sense? Are there any gaps in my understanding? Do I need to do further reading?

 Click on the following example to explore how to use the Cornell Method in your note taking:

For more information and suggestions on effective note taking techniques, read more below:


Note Taking Techniques

The following are some common strategies to help you get the most out of the notes you take during your lectures and reading.

Smart Wisdom

  • Listen for keywords and place them in a chain. Drop unimportant words. E.g.“Is it suitable for my way of thinking and my day-to-day job?”
  • Then put the words in a chain - use joins to replace the dropped words. E.g. suitable-way-thinking/day-day-job?

Mind-mapping or Concept Map

  • Mind mapping takes advantage of how the human brain processes information
  • Start in the centre of the page and build up a network of facts, information and ideas
  • Use a variety of colours and illustrate with images if possible
  • Be bold and creative
  • Find out more about mind mapping here.

Colour coding

  • Using e.g. red for main points, blue for secondary points, green for examples
  • This will help you find things easily when revising.
  • Studies suggest using warm colours for all your note-taking improves concentration & memory
Lecture Capture Overview

Encore Lecture Capture

Most of your scheduled lectures will be recorded using Encore, the University of Sheffield lecture capture tool. Using the lecture capture service to revisit content from lectures is a valuable way to reinforce your learning and prepare for exams and other assessments. Although lecture capture recordings are no substitute for the face-to-face lecture experience, they can be a useful way to access information that you may have missed, go over challenging areas again or review your lecture notes.

Visit our lecture capture pages for information and advice compiled by students on how to make the most of lecture capture as part of your course.


Top Tips

Be concise:

  • Keep it to the point, use abbreviations when appropriate
  • Use bullet points rather than full sentences to act as prompts
  • Try to minimise irrelevant and unimportant information – to avoid confusion later!

Keep it readable

  • Will it be readable later today? Tomorrow? Next week?
  • Think about your handwriting
  • Space material out on the page

Be organised

  • Don’t copy whole paragraphs/slides, try to paraphrase
  • Include references cited/suggested by your lecturers
  • Make sure the structure is easy to follow
  • Don’t rely on handouts – add to them with your own notes
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