Good Advice for Notetakers

From Gerald R. Lucas

Students should keep thorough notes, from classroom lecture/discussion, individual reading, and research. Even if you are absent, you are held responsible for obtaining missed notes. Notes should not only reflect good listening skills, but individual interest in every topic discussed in class. You are encouraged to individually research topics discussed in class. Although notes will not receive a grade, they should be diligently kept in all classes. You should always endeavor to improve note-taking skills by following these suggestions.

Go to Class

Even though you can get notes elsewhere, without hearing the lecture and participating in the discussion, you will probably not have the prior knowledge or cognitive framework necessary to assimilate the externally provided notes.

Take Many Notes

There is a significant relationship between note completion and achievement. Those not permitted to review notes will recall from 34–78% of any information they recorded, but only 5–34% of information they did not record. James Clear suggests organizing your notes in a searchable format, perhaps when revising.[2]

Take Paraphrases or Summaries

Paraphrases serve a reconstructive function because they help you to construct factual information that was originally not noted. They also help with actually learning the material; when you put what you read or hear in your own words, you tend to assimilate it better than just copying verbatim. Consider, then, taking notes by-hand rather than on a laptop.[3]

Revise Notes Following the Class

To fill in the omissions or gaps in notes and then personally integrating lecture content. Active integration organizes ideas in memory and facilitates retrieval. Typing summaries and paraphrases of your class notes as soon as you can after the class will help you learn the content in your own way. Do not try to organize and process during class; wait until you have time to link similar ideas in to a cohesive whole.

Consider Using Dead Trees and Ink Interface

Increasingly, research suggests that devices in the classroom cause more problems than they solve. Consider leaving your device in your bag to potentially improve your grade.[4]


  1. Modified from Kewra, Kenneth A. (1984). "Acquiring Effective Notetaking Skills: An Alternative to Professional Note Taking". Journal of Reading (January).
  2. Clear, James. "7 Ways to Retain More of Every Book You Read". James Clear. Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  3. Doubek, James (April 17, 2016). "Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away". NPR. Retrieved 2018-12-27.
  4. Straumsheim, Carl (May 13, 2016). "Leave It in the Bag". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 2018-12-28.