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Reading and Note-taking

Note-taking 

Before Lecture:

  • Consult learning objectives for lecture
  • Review any slides
  • Read assigned content
  • Choose a note-taking strategy
  • Add date and page number to notes

During Lecture:

  • Listen for signposts
  • Process and paraphrase
  • Write questions for professor
  • Prioritize content over handwriting

After Lecture:

  • Make connections
  • Compare/contrast
  • Summarize
  • Ask questions
  • Sort info (use charts, tables, graphics)
  • Review readings and slides

Listening Tips

  1. Listen for introductions. Get to class on time to hear the context and overview of the lecture. 
  2. Listen for emphasis. Signposts like when the professor slows down, says “this is key,” “here are the main points,” etc. reveal important information. 
  3. Listen for conclusions. At the end of a lecture, the professor will often summarize key info. 

Overcoming Challenges

  1. The professor speaks quickly! Trust yourself to identify main points; don’t write everything. Effective note-taking is about processing, not recording. Compare notes with peers later. 
  2. Lecture halls are distracting! Sit at the front where you won’t see other students’ screens or get drawn into side conversations. 

Suggested Note-taking Method: The Cornell System

  • Divide page into a column on the left 30% of the page’s width (cues), a column on the right 70% of the width (notes), and a row at the bottom with 5-7 lines (summary). 
  • Cues: key words, relevant textbook pages, diagrams, anecdotes
  • Notes: important point-form details recorded during lecture
  • Summary: main ideas and themes, summarized after class

 

Improve your writing and study skills! Book an appointment with a writing advisor and/or academic coach on OSCARplus. Questions? Email skills@mcmaster.ca

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