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Academic Skills

Methods of note-making

  • Long-hand, linear notes maintain the sequence of the chapter, lecture etc. Use numbers, letters, headings and underlining to structure the material and identify key points in the argument but don’t slip into ‘dictation mode’ in lectures or copying straight from a text unless you are going to use a direct quote.
  • Key word notes and other forms of ‘personal shorthand’. Useful in some situations, such as making notes from a TV programme, but make sure that you will remember what they mean the next day.
  • Highlighting or marking a text can sometimes be useful as a ‘labour saving’ approach to identify relevant passages or key quotes - but never do this in a library book. If you own the book, or have a photocopy, make sure that you are selective as too many highlights defeat the object. A soft pencil in the page margin can be enough, but remember that you still need to focus on ‘active reading’.
  • Short Patterned notes, ‘spider diagrams’ or ‘mind maps’ are notes in a diagrammatic form, producing a condensed ‘graphic’ in which key terms and concepts are linked by arrows into chains of association. Useful as an extension of the ‘Key Word’ approach above for fast-paced talks etc. (but with a similar draw-back). Some people with a ‘visual memory’ swear by this method and add colours to emphasise connections but make sure that ‘design’ doesn’t drown out content. These maps can be used to synthesise notes from different sources.

Download Methods of Note-Making Diagram

(The map above was made using cmap which is a free download from http://cmap.ihmc.us/. It’s really easy to use –Try it).

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