Studying Effectively

Notes and other writing tasks

Making notes will be an important habit you will develop and refine at university in a variety of settings and for various purposes:

  • Lectures and teaching sessions – this may involve annotating (adding notes) to existing handouts provided, or creating your own summaries (perhaps in more visual forms e.g. mind-maps).  Some students prefer to do some notes in preparation and then focus on active listening during teaching sessions, using handouts and recordings/podcasts to target areas for clarification afterwards.
  • Reading – pick out key facts, quotes or summarise arguments and theories in your own words.  Remember to relate any notes taken to why you need the notes e.g. to help you produce written coursework, oral presentations or examination answers. Make sure you record the book and pages number for quotes and key ideas as you'll need it when you write your reference list.
  • Practical activities – remember to make a note of what you do, how you do it, what happened and why in laboratory sessions.  This will help with writing up laboratory reports or reflective writing on work-based placements.
  • Meetings – whether you are having a one-to-one meeting with a tutor or with a group of your peers whilst working on a group project, you are likely to need a note of what was said and/or what was agreed.  Check whose agreed responsibility it is to produce notes and consider carefully if you also need to produce any notes yourself.
  • Ideas – when you get an idea, make a note of it.

How to find and use your notes after you have made them is equally important:

  • Per module? A single notebook or folder to keep your dated notes from teaching sessions alongside notes from readings.
  • A single notebook for everything, with notes kept in date order?  You would need to make sure it was clear how each page of notes related to each module or aspect of your course.
  • What type of notebook would be best for you? E.g. lined, plain sheets, squared paper, or a mix of these in a single notebook?
  • When taking notes from reading, be careful to avoid copying a lot of text out. You'll need to make a clear distinction in your writing between your own ideas and other peoples' words.
  • If you are prone to copying out a lot of text or making lengthy notes from reading, try writing key quotes and summaries on index cards to keep material brief and to the point. It can help make you be aware more quickly of how much you are copying.
Taking notes


Further reading

Types of teaching

Reading and interpreting sources and data


Note taking strategies and tools

more from Academic Support study resources

People who can help

Talk to someone in your school or a specialist support service


Studying Effectively

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5151
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3666
Contact us