Hey SAIT students,

Welcome to the third Learning From Home 101 blog post (the previous one was Time Management Through Backwards Planning)! In this post, we’ll be sharing with you 5 tips for taking lecture notes.

We understand that it can sometimes (or even always) be a struggle to determine what to write down during lectures. Note-taking can be intimidating for a variety of reasons – your instructor being an extremely fast talker or leaving their 500-word presentation slide on display for only 10 seconds are just a couple of examples. However, incorporating even just 1 strategic tip will help you towards taking clearer, more effective notes.


Tip #1 | Come to lectures prepared.

You can come to lectures prepared by completing assigned problem(s) and/or reading(s). Doing this allows you to identify and make notes ahead of time on main concepts and ideas that’ll most likely be discussed during the lecture. You can go the extra mile by preparing questions to ask your instructor about the problem(s) and/or reading(s) they assigned. Another way you can come to lectures prepared is by reviewing notes from previous lectures. Doing this can help you situate the new ideas you’ll learn in the upcoming lecture.


Tip #2 | Organize your notes.

Chances are… if you’re taking notes from 5 different courses in 1 notebook/online document without any kind of way to organize the information (e.g. colour coordination, titles, etc.), you’re going to have a very hard time finding a specific piece of information later on. Dedicate 1 notebook/online document to just 1 course or, at the very least, keep separate sections in your 1 notebook/online document for your courses. In addition to this, title your notes with the course, date, and leave space to later include the main topics that were covered in the lecture (e.g. English Literature 248 | 08/17/2020 | Symbols, Motifs, and Themes).


Tip #3 | Be attentive to instructor cues.

You may be asking yourself how you can identify the main points of a lecture. Here are some examples of instructor cues for recognizing the most important points in a lecture:

+ Listen for phrases like, “A major reason why…”, “There are four main…” or “To sum up…”.

+ Non-verbal cues like gestures, pointing, or a vocal emphasis on certain words, etc. can indicate important points.

+ Repeated words and/or concepts are often important.

+ Final remarks often provide a summary of the important points of the lecture.


Tip #4 | Note-taking shouldn’t stop once the lecture has stopped.

Without looking back at the notes you took, write down what you remember learning from the lecture. This isn’t a test, so feel free to be as brief or as detailed as you like. This is simply an exercise to help you realize what you do and do not yet remember, and therefore an exercise that sheds light on areas which you might want to put more effort and time into revising. Once you’ve done this, read through the notes you made whilst in the lecture, and then try to summarize them into 1 paragraph or 5 short bullet points. This exercise allows you to further process information, and the more you work with a piece of information, the more likely you’re going to remember it in future.


Tip #5 | Your professor’s office hours exist for your use, so use them!

The best way to know if you’re taking the right notes is to visit your professor during their virtual office hours and just ask them! Whilst you shouldn’t expect them to read every page of notes you’ve ever taken, you should give them an idea of the kind of notes you take, why you take them, and ask if they think you’re going in the right direction by using your current note-taking strategy/strategies. Additionally, if they’re a professor you have difficulty catching cues from, now is your chance to ask them how they communicate their most important points. If they tell you that the most important points of their presentation slides are often the last 2 sentences, then change your note-taking focus on recording the last 2 sentences of their presentation slides. The point is: the best way to get an answer is simply by asking for one.