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Instructors usually give clues to what is important to take down. Some of the more common clues are:

  • Material written on the blackboard.
  • Repetition
  • Emphasis
    • Emphasis can be judged by tone of voice and gesture.
    • Emphasis can be judged by the amount of time the instructor spends on points and the number of examples he or she uses.
  • Word signals (e.g. "There are two points of view on..." "The third reason is..." "In conclusion...")
  • Summaries given at the end of class.
  • Reviews given at the beginning of class.

Here are some hints on note making.

  • Don't write down everything that you read or hear. Be alert and attentive to the main points. Concentrate on the "meat" of the subject and forget the trimmings.
  • Notes should consist of key words or very short sentences. If a speaker gets sidetracked it is often possible to go back and add further information.
  • Take accurate notes. You should usually use your own words, but try not to change the meaning. If you quote directly from an author, quote correctly.
  • Think a minute about your material before you start making notes. Don't take notes just to be taking notes! Take notes that will be of real value to you when you look over them at a later date.
  • Have a uniform system of punctuation and abbreviation that will make sense to you. Use a skeleton outline and show importance by indenting. Leave lots of white space for later additions.
  • Omit descriptions and full explanations. Keep your notes short and to the point. Condense your material so you can grasp it rapidly.
  • Don't worry about missing a point.
  • Don't keep notes on oddly shaped pieces of paper. Keep notes in order and in one place.
  • Shortly after making your notes, go back and rework (not redo) your notes by adding extra points and spelling out unclear items. Remember, we forget rapidly. Budget time for this vital step just as you do for the class itself.
  • Review your notes regularly. This is the only way to achieve lasting memory.

"Taking Lecture Notes." Academic Skills Center, Dartmouth College 2001

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