Taking Notes During Lectures


  • Use standard loose leaf notebook paper for each course. You can’t reshuffle your notes or insert handouts easily in spiral notebooks.
  • Keep each class in a separate binder.
  • Write on one side of the paper for easier organization and review. It’s easier to overlook material written on the back side of a page.
  • Use the back side to quiz yourself later.
  • Don’t doodle because it distracts you. If you must draw, add pictures to your lecture notes about the content of the lecture.
  • Leave blank space and note a question where information is missed or not understood.
  • Utilize your professor, classmates, or the textbook to fill in gaps of missed information. Fill in the gaps on the day of the lecture before you forget what you missed.
  • Develop your own organization system of numbering and indenting.
  • Review your notes 5-10 minutes after class. At this time you should change, organize, add, delete, summarize, and clarify misunderstandings.  


  • Date and title every lecture.
  • Paraphrase. Use your own words.
  • Listen for terminology. Define terms later if needed.
  • Write down details. Supporting details and examples prove the main point. Essay questions will require that you know the details.
  • Write down examples. Examples serve as vivid triggers or reminders of the main point. Associating the point with the example will make it easier to memorize.
  • Be alert to repetition. Repetition signals what the lecturer thinks is important.
  • Don’t wait for something important. Recording all you can keeps you involved. If the lecture is moving fast, remember some notes are better than none. Fill in gaps later.


  • Reduce. Reduce your notes into key concepts, terms, and possible test questions to be used for review later.
  • Recite. Cover your notes and quiz yourself on the notes written using the prompts in section. Say the answer out loud to more effectively encode information into memory.
  • Reflect. Write summaries of the lecture. Writing summaries helps you process information and prepare for essay questions. Create note cards, outlines, concept maps or charts for study. Making study aids is studying.
  • Review your notes weekly. You will be amazed at how much you retain if you review your notes for 5-10 minutes daily and then do a full review weekly.

Downloadable Cornell Notes Template (PDF)


Baylor University ||| Notetaking. Academic Support Programs | Baylor University. Accessed November 6, 2015. Used with permission. Trish Baum, Resource Coordinator of Academic Support Programs at Baylor University. 

Note Taking Tips | Academic Skills Center: Study Skills Library | Cal Poly. Accessed November 6, 2015.