Academic Skills


Effective note-making is essential for academic study, but it is too easily taken for granted and regarded as something that can be done without much thought. You need to think critically about your own approach; Have you ever made notes that don’t make sense when you look at them again? Do you go for key points, or try to write down everything? Are your notes organised or haphazard - or even lost? Do all your notes look the same?

Note-making is part of the process of actively engaging with the topic. Different learning situations call for different approaches to note-making, and different people may adopt different methods, but, in general, making notes is part of a wider process of ‘making sense’ of material by puzzling out meanings and putting them into your own words. Good notes can save you hours of work later.

Lectures will give an over-view of the topic, not a definitive statement of everything you need to know, so see your notes as a basis for further reading and research. You can’t write a good essay on lecture notes alone. A good lecture will present structured information in a well-paced fashion, but your job is to ‘make sense of it’ for yourself; simply writing down phrases projected on the screen is passive ‘note-taking’ not active ‘note- making’

Why make notes?

  • to remember and make sense of material
  • to provide an outline of points made in lectures
  • to help summarise/analyse reading
  • to provide ‘key points’ to be developed in essays and seminar discussion
  • as an essential aid to concentration
  • as a resource for exam revision

When to make notes

  • in lectures and while reading books and articles
  • in seminars and class discussions
  • from radio/TV programmes
  • in one-to-one tutorials with your lecturers
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