Taking notes

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One of the things that people often worry most about when they start a higher level course is whether they will have the skills they need to succeed. The important thing to remember is that you will already have developed some of these skills through your working life, and you will definitely be able to learn the others, with support as you go through your course. This unit is about the study skill of taking notes. This is a basic study skill in the sense that it is the foundation for all successful study. But that does not mean it is simple. You will need to take notes in a variety of situations during your study, either from a lecture or seminar, or while you are reading an article or a piece of academic text.

If you have no recent experience of reading academic texts you need to re-learn your reading skills. Reading magazines, newspapers or fiction is a useful basis, but entails very different skills from academic reading. The same goes for taking notes. Scribbling down the important bits of a recipe from a television cook or underlining some interesting advice from a magazine article helps, but of course there is a lot more to taking notes from a social science text. So we suggest that you spend the time working on these skills. Then, when you need to use these skills, you will be able to use them quickly, effectively and with more confidence.

To find out more about how to read effectively for higher level study go to Get Reading – Active Reading. To take notes effectively for your study you will need to develop some techniques. These techniques are:

  • Highlighting and/or underlining
  • Note taking and shorthand
  • Processing information and interrogating key ideas

However confident you are about being an effective reader and an effective note taker, we suggest that you take some time to work through this unit and think about these important skills. The main focus of effective note taking and note making is that you should be able to process and identify the key ideas in a piece of text.

To find out strategies for identifying the key ideas in academic texts go to Identifying key ideas.

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