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Note making

Note making techniques

There are several different ways to take notes. Some students prefer to write down their notes in a linear format, some like to write notes in columns, and some prefer to use patterns and mind-maps.

Which technique you choose will depend on what you find most effective.

The linear format

The linear format is the most conventional method. It can encourage a more passive approach, so to make your notes as effective as possible:

  • Use headings, underlining and capitals to organise notes on the page
  • Use symbols or abbreviations to keep it brief
  • Use bullet points or numbering
  • Leave good margins so you can add additional notes later
  • Use quotation marks to show direct quotes from your lecturers or the source you are using
  • Identify your own ideas eg within square brackets or using a different colour.

The pattern format

The pattern format is a visual approach. You organise the key words and concepts across the page, like a mind-map, and can use colours and pictures to help you understand the ideas.

By using this approach you can make connections and use visual cues, while still clearly recording sources and quotes.

The three-column format

The three column format organises your page into three areas:

  • key information
  • your own notes (taken any way you like)
  • a summary.

The right section is for your notes, the left section is for key terms, questions and references, and the lower section is where you will summarise the lecture or reading in your own words.

This is a good approach for note taking as it allows you to take notes how you like (visual, linear, mind-maps etc), encourages you to question, review and think critically, and gives you a usable summary.

See how to use the three-column format to make effective notes:

Download our handy guide to note making for more information and examples of these different techniques.