EL3222: Notes on Note-Taking
Some lecturers advice students not to write notes during their lectures. But
this is not something that we can or should legislate, can we? In fact, I
have a rather different view on this topic. I notice, for example, that the students
who scored the lowest and second lowest marks for this module in 2007–08
did not take notes at all during class. Some research has in fact shown that
effectively done, does enhance learning.
But how should note-taking be done? Here are some of my notes on note-taking,
written with EL3222 in mind, although
some of my observations or recommendations could be applied to other modules as
well. Many of you, of course, know some of the points below very well, but it is
always useful to rehearse the points about note-taking in relation to a particular module, to
introduce new ones, or to flesh out those that you may not be familiar with, as
they may help you in your learning of this module. Many of the points below
should be viewed as recommendations, and are not obligatory, although it may
be useful to follow the majority of them.
- Make sure you pay attention to the lecture, and not write notes
- Do not write notes furiously, noting down everything the lecturer says.
Write sparingly and selectively, noting down only what you think is important.
- Do not pack the entire page with your notes. Leave some space on the
page, so that you may be able to write further notes, annotations,
observations, explanations etc. after the lecture, or during your revision.
- There is no need to write in complete sentences. You can use some kind
of shorthand. Many of you are familiar with what is sometimes called SMSese:
you may use this for your notes, as they are only meant for your
personal perusal. (You
must not use it of course, for your essays and your discursive exam answers!,
However you may use it – or what is more appropriately called chatese or IM-lingo
in this context – when you use the
IVLE chatroom for this module).
- You must be able to look for appropriate moments (usually lasting no
more than several seconds) to write your notes, without distracting your
attention from the lecture. You are not going to be given time to write your
notes down, so this is a skill that you need to develop, if are not already
able to do so. Do not overestimate your ability to multi-task – writing
notes on what has been previously said, while concentrating on what is
presently said – the quality of what you write and your understanding
of what is being said may be negatively affected.
- Wherever possible, look back at your notes during class, during the
break, or shortly after the class. Clarify or correct anything that has not
been clearly written: eg. spelling mistakes (for words that need to be spelt
out in full), unclear or misleading shorthand etc.
- Capitalise key words or highlight them. Capitalising may be done during
the lecture, especially if you immediately know what the key words are.
Highlighting may be done later, although I have seen students who are able
to do it during class.
- If you missed something due to an attention lapse (it may happen,
sometimes, even to the most attentive student in class!) try to ask your
friends about what you have missed later, during the rest periods or after
the class is over, and include what you have missed in your notes, or amend
- You may want to formalise the arrangement whereby you check each other's
notes by doing it on a regular basis, even if you think you have not missed
anything. Discussions with your module colleagues about what the lecture was
about is usually beneficial, and if regularly done, it will enhance your
learning of the module.
- The lecture notes or outlines for this
module are provided.
You may, if you want to, use them as
the base for your lecture notes, writing your own notes next to or around particular
paragraphs or points, etc. If you use them, you may find that you spend less time writing
notes – perhaps much less time – and you may be able to pay more attention in class. As these
notes are freely available online, you may want to
take the liberty, if you feel they are useful for this purpose, to convert them to word
processing documents and make the amendments to them in order to make them
more amenable for your note-taking in class before printing them: for example,
leaving as much margin as you think you would need, or leaving a space
between lines, etc.
- There is some leeway when a discussion
question is flashed on the screen, as not all students will be
responding to it. But make sure you understand the question and why you
think it is asked. If you want to respond to it, make sure, of course, that
your note-taking does not stand in the way. After the discussion is over,
you may, if you want, write down the important point or points discussed.
- When a video clip is shown, you should pay attention to it. The video
clips have a central function in a module like this, and do not serve a
decorative purpose. However, the room is usually darkened when the clips
shown, so you may not be able to see clearly even if you want to write
notes. You can of course write notes after a clip is shown and the room is
lightened up again.
- As you very well know, your tasks do not end after taking notes. This
factor is also reiterated in several of the points above, such as going back
to your notes to see if you have understood them, highlighting important
points, etc. (see points 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9 above). In addition to the tasks
or possible tasks mentioned above, an obvious one is to safe keep your notes
in a way for easy retrieval later, and to ensure you do not lose them:
losing notes or not knowing where you kept them before the exam is a
perennial problem encountered amongst students! If you have the time,
scanning your notes as image files or printing them after you have done so
for filing elsewhere may be a precautionary measure that you may want to
03 February 2012