Effective Note Taking

Taking notes helps you actively engage with the materials in your courses. Here are some visuals to help you get started.

Evidence of effective notes

Figure 1. Major aspects of taking good notes. A good note is written in your own words. It is compact and to-the-point, and helps connect ideas and concepts you learned in class. It is well-organized with a main point and its supporting points, and details for each supporting point.

3-step strategy for taking effective notes

This is an effective approach to help you focus and understand what you are reading; paragraph by paragraph or slide by slide.

Figure 2. This picture shows a 3-step strategy for effective note taking,. First, it is recommended that you read through the text with out taking notes; then read again but this time with annotations on the margins of the documents and making your own comments or questions. Lastly, you could take some time to highlight key concepts or ideas.

SQ4R Method improves your ability to understand, concentrate and retain what you read and take notes effectively


  • SCAN (Survey) – quickly read or look through the text to get a sense of what it is about. Look out for key terms or concepts
  • QUESTION– Try making questions for headings, subheadings or key concepts. This makes for a more active reading process
  • READ & RECORD each section by focusing on main points and changing them into your own words in bulleted or short form
  • RECITE – Cover the text and see if you can answer the questions to the headings you created earlier. This checks for understanding before moving on
  • REVIEW – If time permits and after a break, review your notes before class of course. This checks your understanding of the text and improves your memory
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