Note -Taking - An exploration on how to take notes

March 03, 2019

Note -Taking - an exploration on how to take notes

By RPJ as published on The Questng Child

[Exploring Teens introductory comment ]  This is a helpful article that explains exactly how to take notes, a skill that seems expected in school's and unvisersity, but not something that is explicitly taught. This is a great item to share with your teen!

When should I take notes?

Students take notes when they want to highlight or remember certain information in class, from textbooks, or when planning/outlining a paper or project


Note-taking in class:

  • If reading is assigned, make sure you have read it before-hand. It will aid you in knowing what the teacher is talking about, and you can take better notes.
  • Use headings to frame the information your teacher is discussing.
  • Develop your own “shorthand.” It takes too long to write complete sentences when you are listening to ideas and attempting to get them down verbatim.
  • Make the notes efficient. Notes that are too lengthy or too detailed can be overwhelming when you read them over later to study.
  • Stay focused. If your mind wanders, it is hard to have a complete set of notes.
  • Your notes do not have to be perfect. Get the information down and deal with sorting it out later.
  • Rephrase information you hear into your own information. It helps you evaluate the key concepts and know it better.
  • Doodle or draft an illustration or image to make sense of a concept. This is especially helpful in science/math.
  • When you have a question about information you hear during class, write it down in the margin for later to either ask the teacher or look it up on your own.
  • After-class: Is there anything missing? Do you need to rewrite messy words, or restructure the whole thing? It may seem silly to rewrite class notes, but it can be a helpful tool to study and organize. You can also use fun things like highlighters and pens to “highlight” key concepts and the structure of your notes.


Note-taking for textbooks:

  • Skim the chapter to see what sort of headings/organization you will have coming.
  • Use framework to organize information. This is very important – write out section headers, use bullet points, etc. for later easy studying.
  • Write out key definitions and concepts. This is where you get to know the information you’re being tested on and need to learn. Include formula examples for math, quotes, vocabulary, etc.
  • Read notes aloud afterwards, to make sure it makes sense and to better absorb the information.
  • Write questions in the margins of your notes to ask the teacher later.
  • If you find a graphic or chart helpful, sketch it out in your notes.
  • Circle or star certain phrases or concepts that you think are important and you want to remember/return to later.
  • Perhaps the most important point of note-taking is this: Do not copy verbatim out of the book (except for a formula or definition) because you need to learn to paraphrase others’ ideas. Turning someone’s words into your own paraphrased words can help you synthesize information and learn it quicker.
  • Create an outline, mindmap, or Cornell notes for content-heavy notes.
  • Write summary at the bottom perhaps, 2-4 sentences to capture the big picture of what you just wrote down.
  • Flag pages of book you want to return to with post-its or book flags.


Writing notes or outlines for a paper or project:

Sometimes it’s easier to wrap your mind around a paper or project if you organize it first.

  1. Paper

    Paper working title
    Due date
    Research idea or thesis
    Length of paper
    Sources used
    Summary of paper or thesis/idea
    Conclusion or what you hope to prove or accomplish within the paper
  2. Project

    Project name
    Due date
    Materials needed
    Length of paper included with project or any sort of written material needed
    General idea of project/summary
    Sources used
    Conclusion or what you hope to prove or accomplish with the project

Which should I use – paper or computer?

When taking notes – what’s better to use?

Paper is always the way to go when taking notes!

  • Studies have shown that using handwritten notes help you remember information.
  • It is easier to be distracted while using a keyboard rather than a pen.
  • You are less likely to interact and ask questions if you are behind a screen.
  • Never underestimate the power of school and office supplies! Pens, flags, pencils, highlighters, binders, index dividers, folders – all these things can help and make your note-taking experience an organized, good-looking, and helpful one.


Why should I take notes?

I listen in class and I’ve read the material – why do I need to write anything down?

  • It’s important to document information that’s important to you and your class/exam/test/paper.
  • It collects and organizes your thoughts.
  • It is a skill that stays with you throughout your educational and professional career.
  • You can fill in the gaps about what you know vs, what you don’t know.
  • Note-taking makes it easier for you to review for tests.
  • You can think through the material and look at examples of work to help you better understand it. This is especially true for math and foreign languages.
  • It helps with memory.


How should I take notes?

There are several types of note-taking styles.  Look through them and see what is best for you.



  1. Most basic but provides general framework.
  2. A list of headings, ideas, sub-points, and specific details.
  3. This handout is an example of the outline method.


  1. 3 sections on the paper: the notes column, the cues column, and the summary section.
  2. Helps review for tests.
  3. Summary section can take extra time, but it is helpful.


  1. Good for factual informational and statistics that perhaps needs to be memorized.
  2. Use categories, decide them beforehand. Fill-in lecture notes as you listen.
  3. Great for keywords, dates, phrases/content-heavy lectures.
  4. Reduces amount of writing.


  1. All notes grouped together in various boxes by topic.
  2. Each box dedicated to a section of information.
  3. You see review information in a convenient way – delineated by topic.
  4. Requires additional time to draw/make boxes and decide topics.


This article was first pulished by The Questing Child.  The Questing Child is a US websute that connects gifted and talented children with the public library through bibliotherapeutic materials, parent/teacher education, and intellectual resources.

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