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. Great notes give you a foundation 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

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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 jot down things to research further. If you really do need to take down a lot 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 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, or it might 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 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 (49)

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  • 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.