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Assignment and Study Help - Degree Courses


Note taking is an essential skill to assist you in collecting key ideas presented in class by a teacher and when researching for an assignment.

Note taking methods vary with the purpose of the notes and the thinking style of the note taker.

Taking notes when researching

  1. Skim read the paragraph before you commence writing. You may find there is no relevant information.
  2. Read the passage then write out in your own words to check your understanding.
  3. When reading, always look for a topic sentence in the introductory sentence of a paragraph to identify what the source is about. Then seek out answers to this topic. Essays generally follow the essay writing conventions with introduction, body of paragraphs and a conclusion.

This makes it easier to follow the point the author is attempting to make.

When taking notes from readings there are two approaches:

  1. Detailed or closed reading.
  2. Summarising the basic key ideas of the source.

Notes are your record of what is important to you from your reading. Your notes should always include:

Bibliographic details

Information needed to reference your source material eg:

  • page numbers
  • quotations, which are exact transcripts of the original material

Headings to make sense of the material

  • helps keep your notes organised
  • helps group relevant information together

Your annotations

Your own observations eg:

  • your comments
  • your opinions
  • relevance of the material

And explanations eg:

  • definitions
Keywords Your own words, as many as possible

Details you might forget

  • reminders
  • suggested further reading

How you organise these notes is a personal decision and should suit your needs. There is no single best way to organise information.

Each of us have different learning styles, (that is - the way you learn), and there is no one ‘right’ way to learn. Good note taking usually involves a summary in your own words so you understand later. Keywords should always be noted so these can be looked up later.

Concept mapping These are a good structure for getting the overview of the topic and how various points are directly connected.
Headings Write a new heading for each point, followed by brief notes to explain.
Cornell note taking method

Divide the page up into two columns: left hand narrow and right hand wide.

The right column is to be filled in DURING CLASS. Here you should write your detailed notes using concise sentences, shorthand symbols, abbreviations and lists.

The narrow column on the left should be completed AFTER CLASS and include the main ideas, questions that connect the points, diagrams etc. At the base of your page write a brief summary to be completed after class with the top level main ideas. This is useful for quick reference.

As a student you will be confronted with vast amounts of information. You will need to ask yourself:

  • How can I judge the value of what I am reading?​
  • How can I select what I need?
  • What is the focus of the writing?
  • Is the writing relevant?
  • How can I remember what I need to know?
  • How can I make sense of what I am reading?
  • How can I revise and use my research?
  • How can I use the language in the writing


Notes are your record of what is important to you from your reading.

Good research analysis and accurate recording of your research helps you to:

  • Assess the resource.
  • Collect information.
  • Determine the main sections or the headings of your assessment.
  • Understand what you are reading.
  • See relationships such as cause and effect, and comparison.
  • Select what you need.
  • Think through the information so you can use it appropriately.
  • Learn new language and terms.
  • Avoid plagiarism.
  • Have a quick reference for details.

After the lesson:

  • Review your notes that same day/night. There is greater retention of information if notes are reviewed on the same day.
  • Highlight key points.
  • Edit notes and write a summary of the key points.  Check and add to your summary from a textbook or other resource.
Good notes are:
  • Personal - with your own structure and abbreviations.
  • Well organised - easy to follow and read.
  • Brief and to the point.


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