Studying Effectively

Taking useful notes

Students take notes in lectures in many different ways and during your first few weeks at the University of Nottingham you may want to review your strategies for note-taking.

If mind-mapping or diagrammatic notes are more suitable for you, do not feel you have to take linear, text-based notes. Here are some strategies that others have found useful.


  • Use a ring binder - so you can integrate your own handwritten notes with any handout materials you may be given
  • Use a margin down the left hand side so that you can make revision notes and comments down the left of your page.  You may want to look at the Cornell system of notetaking.
  • Aim to capture the main points and note below each main point related supporting facts and illustrative examples
  • If you use colour coding, be consistent - this can be very helpful in organising your thoughts and may also be something that you can add to immediately after the lecture
  • Use abbreviations - some subjects have abbreviations or symbols for common terms and concepts.  These can save you time when taking notes. Ask your friends and lecturers what shorthand they use. 

What to do with your notes

  • Check your notes soon after the lecture making sure key points are clearly identified. You may need to use a system for emphasising these most important elements e.g. circle or underline them.
  • Some students can find it helpful to review notes within 24 hours - actively work with the material and aim to reduce your notes to a short overview (e.g. a single mind-map, or a small number of key bullet-points). Actively engaging with the ideas and information can help move them from your short term to long term memory.
  • Produce summary notes - by further reduction or re-organising along a time-line or themed grouping - again this working with the information will help your understanding and your ability to retain the information and concepts that you have been taught.
Making notes


Further reading


Reading and interpreting sources and data

Note taking techniques and strategies

More from Academic Support reading strategies and support

People who can help

Talk to someone in your school or a specialist support service


Studying Effectively

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