How to take great notes

In this post get some top tips for taking notes whether you’re learning online or offline.

Taking notes is usually fundamental when you’re learning something new. Thorough notes can give you a strong foundation of learning to build on and something useful to refer back to. Here’s a few tricks we’ve learnt for taking great notes.

1. Find the the right tools

How-to-take-great-notes-find-the-right-tools3

The first step to taking great notes is using tools that suit you: maybe you love scribbling away with a biro and a small notebook, maybe you prefer bright colours and lots of blank paper, or maybe you want to sit with your laptop or tablet and type out your notes straight into an app.

Try out different tools, and find the ones that make note-taking not just easy, but enjoyable (that way you’re far more likely to keep going).

2. Don’t just transcribe

Whether you’re sat watching a video, or in a lecture hall, it’s easy to try and scribble down everything the speaker is saying. The result is usually smudged and nonsensical. Try and filter what the speaker is saying, listen for key points, or note down things to research further. If you really do need to take down the majority of what they’re saying, try and use abbreviations and simplify sentences, that way you can check your understanding as you go along. 

3. Highlight!

Once you’ve finished writing your notes don’t abandon them – now is the time to have a proper sift through. You might highlight the most important parts, or highlight the parts to research further, or highlight key people to remember – the choice is yours. If you find yourself accidentally highlighting entire paragraphs try setting yourself a limit: if you’ve taken 5 pages of notes limit yourself to highlighting 2 lines per page, that gives you 10 key things to remember.

4. Create your own summaries

The process of turning notes into useful knowledge is a bit like distillation. You start out with raw material, you sift through it choosing the most important parts and finally you condense those parts into something usable. This last part is key, it’s here you have the chance to turn your notes into something uniquely useful to you. For instance you might summarise a set of notes in 6 notecards, writing one keyword to jog your memory about an important concept, formula or figure. But that keyword might be something that only you find amusing, or memorable, about the subject, it might even be something entirely random.


Extra tips

  • Get organised – having great notes is useless if you can’t find them. Try and organise your notes in a system you can easily use, whether on the computer or in physical folders.
  • Play to your strengths – prefer learning by listening? Record yourself reading your notes. Prefer visual learning? Get artistic and draw out concepts and illustrations. There’s no one way to take good notes, it’s about what suits you.
  • Write down any questions – even if your questions are tangential you can use these to expand your knowledge, or to test yourself later.

If you have some great advice for taking notes, let us know in the comments.

Category Learning

Comments (54)

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  • Christia Stfleur

    thanks for this amazing post. Keep up with the good work.

  • Patrick

    Good suggestions, and it will help when I go to ake my class on “The Book of Kells” starting Monday, September 16th…

  • Msh jabeen

    It’s really very informative!

  • Alecia

    this is very informative and helpful

  • Mrs. D.B. Jones

    Great note taking lesson for my students!

  • samboko Fresno

    it’s great .

  • Haley De Alba

    I like to take notes on a laptop so that I don’t lose them and that way I have them forever and can find them faster.

  • natalia

    the best way for me to take notes is cornell notes work for me because they are neat but i hate doing them. I also make flashcards to help me study.

  • Dr Hammad Hasan

    Taking notes is very important part of your study.someone depend upon their notes in their exam.I was surprised when i saw this about guidance to take great notes.I think it will provide great help.

  • Alja alfred alamvvea

    Good work done.

  • Sili Zhu

    Not to take any notice by the time you’re learning whatever you’re watching the video, reading Articles or listening to teachers. but take photos of the notes on monitors, then take notes from the pictures in your device after class by using your own thoughts .surely except either the things taught doesn’t appear in the notes or you aren’t allowed to take the pictures.(for online course ,suggest to take notes by your understanding while to watch it again or to read the article again .for the following reasons:
    1. concentration mustn’t be interrupted.
    2. It makes you to reveal from the pictures
    3. Making notes with your understanding forces you to think again to strong your remembering .
    4. Training your brain and the ability of conclusion. 🙂
    Tips : please make sure you have got time for it.
    Sorry, my English isn’t good enough to explain clearly.

    • Shahzad

      Your English is good and we completely understood your points. Thank you.

      • Siobhan O'Malley

        I agree with your approach in relation to taking photos /recording the topic the speaker is dealing with. It can be difficult at times to both take notes well i.e. breaking content down into main points and to concentrate on understanding the topic the speaker is dealing with at the same time , particularly if the topic is very complex. Difficulties may arise also if the speaker has not already broken content down sufficiently for the learner to understand. Generally I think the original article is good particularly in the advice for the steps one should take after first making notes.

  • Abbas Mehran

    It would be great to know how to take notes. I need such a course to learn this skill. I always start at the top of the page, and do not live space for any additions in between lines, sentences etc. Notes should be visually attractive and intellectually stimulative, but how????

  • Robin

    It may seem obvious, but it is useful when you are taking notes from a book, that you remember to write down which book you are using and which page numbers in the book your notes refer. This helps you to quickly locate the original source and cite that source correctly, especially if your research requires examining multiple sources!

  • Rizveena

    Drawing mind map and using time line too remember well.

  • Mahalakshmi

    You can even use the flowchart of the topic which helps in greater remembrance

  • Alejandra

    Fantastic to pass on to my students. I already use all those ways for taking notes. I simply love taking notes. I can t read or listen to something I like, without a pencil in my hand…

  • Paul Oluwaseun Ojo

    Nice and useful tips.
    Thank you

  • Hazel Gawn

    This would have been most useful but the moving pictures were so distracting I had to give up!

  • Ashkan

    Valuable and very useful tips.. thanks for your great service

  • Barbara

    Thank you – I’m someone who copies down everything and now I will try and follow your suggestions.

  • Lway Mya Ohn

    Thank you for your advice. So, I can share my knowledge with the other. And I’m so happy to learn this course.

  • Andaluse Aljallasi

    Very useful , thanks

  • Jikle Ramirez

    Thank you…. Very useful advise. It very import to know how to take notes and make brief annotation in order to organize the knowledgement, they make easy the learning.

  • WintWah

    Thank a lot of this post. The method is very useful for everybody. So , I must be try to obey in this method.

  • Martin Flores

    Always, it´s really important to know new3 ways for learning…

  • Karla

    Very informative!!!

  • Beethoshokej

    we can use a flow-chart or a web-chart for taking notes as well.

  • MASSONG NICOLE FOTABONG

    Very informative this blog on how to take great note. I really appreciate and will put it in practise from Monday 15 May 2017. Oh, i learned some new english words too! Many thanks

  • onyebuchi G otti

    is great to study project management online . thanks

  • rizqa

    really useful article, i never think about it before , while i joined in offline course, i just keep in mind or just take a picture of materials. many thanks to you

  • Ella

    I think that this is a fantastic article. Apart from learning many authentic English expressions, i also can learn a lot useful skills at note-taking. i will continue support your programme.

  • K.G. Dan

    Thanks for posting.I prefer taking down notes when reading business books, for the simple reason that I do not need to read them again.

  • Abdulfeta kedir

    having an abstract note, which contain an idea that have a lot, is a key point to undertake a note taking skill. after having had a meeting or lecture, you have to read and write the detail part of the abstract.

  • Ms Evangelister Ndlovu

    Thank you very much. The method is helpful.

  • Comfort

    In my opinion after taking great notes assimilation of those notes or highlighting is best first thing in the morning or last thing at night. The brain retains such information at those times. Also placing your summaries on your mirror or in a place you frequent can assist with retention. My thoughts on this. Thanks.

  • Vandana Subhashrao Dharamkhele

    given tips are very important. I took this type of notes when I feel the content is inspiring me and others.

  • Dr.Gamal Saif

    Choose attracting subject to you and belonging to your recent practice, and you will give innovative and valuable notes simply.

  • Jacqueline Alleyne

    I’d forgotten all about the word association technique.

  • Busisiwe Maphanga

    Thank you for these very useful study tips. I always fall into the trap of transcribing everything in lectures and textbooks and having illegible notes at the end. I find printing the notes out beforehand helpful, then I only need to write the the most important points made and not everything the lecturer says.

  • Dmitrijs Kass

    I find the Cornell method to be highly effective. It takes time and effort to make it a habbit, but it is very rewarding. Google it.

  • Carol K.

    When revising for an exam, try recording your revision notes onto your smartphone or MP3 player. Listening to your revision notes is a good way to help you remember. You can even revise for your exams whilst travelling to school or university by listening to your revision notes in your car or on public transport.

  • Lidia Garcia

    Thank you, very useful information.

  • e Berris

    I t is particularly important to take accurate notes of sources _ especially from the internet or books. Nothing is more frustrating than to find an interesting or important allusion in your notes and not be able to find its source again to check out all the detail.

  • John norman

    I have found mind maps very useful especially using many colours

  • Rajendra

    Notes are very important. I always have it when I read any book , Newspaper…. etc.

  • Emanuel

    In my opinion, flash cards are the best way to memorize! Great tips!

  • Ian Todd

    I always try now to make my initial notes in a mind-map format straightaway rather than writing line upon line of notes. It always seems a lot more fun right at the outset.

  • Kathy Nabbie

    I take notes even if I know a handout will be given at the end. In some lectures, if a question is asked by the lecturer, I can always find the answer by referring to my notes. At the end of the session on my way home on the train , I read my notes and wrire a reflective account of what I learnt.
    Reflective accounts are great for revision, for teaching, sharing with colleagues and also for revalidation.

    • Kathy

      Correction
      write a reflective account

  • Rubén Salinas

    Tips like these are very important, especially for high school students and those who start university studies.
    We look forward to more tips!!

  • Teresa Wang

    Accurate, brief, clear.
    I took above notes from a book I read before (I forgot the name of the book). I think the three words are the principle of various forms of writing and notes. Keep everything you write correct, simple and clear, and, if necessary, creative.
    Take notes when you feel the content is inspiring or confusing , so you could read and think it deeply and more seriously when you have enough time.
    If you have new ideas on a old subject, write it down, thus you can see the progresses you have made. It will give you confidence and encourage you go further.
    Sometimes I don’t take notes, because the subject is what I really love and enjoy, it is easy to understand, I don’t need to take notes. Some very good or bad experiences could shape our mind in a different way, you gonna never forget them. I like sharing great experiences with people but I would rather keep those painful memories in my own mind.

  • Jannatul Ferdous Chowdhury

    I like taking notes. Your tips are quite interesting.
    Thanks:)