A GUIDE TO TAKING LECTURE NOTES   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
348-5175

Missing a lecture can be like throwing out a chapter of a book. Here are some good habits that can increase your chances of remembering lecture material.

1.  Go to every class, if possible. Not attending class is a "no-win" proposition. Each class represents an investment, and non-attendance means you paid for something (with fees and time) for which you received nothing. Think about it!

2.  Have a single notebook for each course, preferably loose-leaf. This gives you the advantage of placing handouts and revised pages in proper order.

3.  Prepare yourself before the lecture begins:

a.  Complete reading assignments, or at least preview them.

b.  Review the notes from the previous lecture. This provides continuity and refreshes your memory.

c.  Be punctual. Don’t miss the introductory portion of the lecture - it may contain major points.

d.  Sit in the front-center of the room.

e.  Give the professor your undivided attention and respond to the lecture in a way that shows you are interested. Maintaining eye contact encourages concentration.

f.   Set up your notebook according to a format you have chosen and date your notes.

4. Use good listening habits:

a.  Listen for the main points of the lecture.

b.  Hear the lecture out before making a judgement about whether you agree or disagree.

c.  Listen for ideas and concepts. Listening only for facts is inefficient.

d.  Concentrate. Faking attention is kidding yourself

e.  Listen to and hear the lecturer. Not being able to see or hear is your problem.

f.   Listen more intently with difficult material. Tuning out because it is hard to understand doesn’t accomplish anything.

g.  Use clues that the lecturer gives, such as:

i.  words that are spelled and defined;

ii.  repetitions and extended comments;

iii.  superlatives, volume change in voice, and speed of talking;

iv.  lists and drawings

h.  When you can, translate what you hear into your own words.

5.  Lecture note-taking styles:

a.  Do not try to write down every word. Listen, and, if you can, write down in your own words what you just heard.

b.  Listen for main topics, key points, and the organization of the ideas presented.

c.  Write legibly – copying lecture notes is a waste of time.

d.  Paragraph style is the easiest to use but the most difficult to study. If you choose it, write down the general ideas rather than details. Number or label lists and secondary points.

e.  Sentence style consists of a series of numbered statements. This is best used with an unorganized lecturer, but is difficult to study.

f.   Outlining (using Roman numerals, headings, etc.) is the easiest style to study but requires a high degree of thinking and organization of the material. It does discourage copying the lecture word-for-word, however. Outlining requires a certain amount of anticipation as to what is coming next in the lecture, but this encourages active listening.

6.  What to do with your lecture notes after you have them.

a.  Review them as soon as possible and clean them up, clarifying, filling in gaps, etc.

b.  Reduce major points to "clues" by identifying key words and main ideas.

c.  Periodically revise your notes. Instead of waiting "till the night before the exam," review every few days to encourage long term memory and to make it easy on yourself when the test does come along. You’ll also be in good shape if you are given a pop quiz.

d.  Review the last lecture’s notes before each lecture.

e.  Tie together what is learned from your lectures with that learned in your text. Most discrepancies, "holes" in your understanding of concepts, similarities or differences