It’s easy to take notes. But figuring out how to make them a useful tool for study or assignment writing can be a whole other thing.

It’s important to ensure your notes are systematic, organised and can help you effectively recall, understand and apply information.

Note-making tips

When making notes from course readings, journal articles or books, know the purpose of your notes and how you plan to use them.

Read through the assessment task when preparing notes for your assignment. Use your critical thinking skills to understand the kind of information to look for.

Write lecture notes to help recall key points and relevant details about the lecture, useful when preparing for exams. If the content is not available before the lecture—for example, PowerPoint slides or course readings—focus on the key points or issues highlighted by your lecturer.

There are many different note-taking techniques, find one that works for you.

Two well-known techniques are summarising the text and using graphic organisers, such as concept maps and timelines. Use them to draw attention to:

  • the main points or helpful examples in the text
  • unfamiliar words or definitions to follow up on later.

Check your notes:

  • Is the information relevant and useful for its intended purpose?
  • Do they fit in with other information you have on the topic?
  • Do they build on, support or extend your ideas and knowledge?
  • Do other perspectives need to be considered?
  • Do you need to find more information?

Reflect on the notes made and improve them if needed.

Use a visual tool to organise your notes. Visual tools can help you:

  • summarise the information
  • find links and gaps
  • think critically
  • understand the content.

Try these visual tools:

  • Concept maps—brainstorm, connect, communicate and expand on ideas.
  • Tables—track ideas and determine how they are related.
  • Timelines—see when key events happened. This allows you to link ideas and connect events.

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