note-taking/creating notes

When reading a text or listening to a lecture, it is a good idea to take notes to preserve your concentration and keep a record of what you are reading or hearing for later revision.

Note-Taking Styles / Methods

There are many different style and methods for taking effective notes. One of the most popular and effective for taking notes during lectures is the “Cornell” method, which divides the page into real-time notes, cues/comments, and summary areas, which you complete during and just after the class, and before the exam, respectively. Other techniques have been described as “mapping”, “outlining”, “charting”, and “sentence” methods, and all are useful for slightly different purposes (Oxford Learning 2017). Remember, you can take notes by hand, using pen/pencil and paper, or you may find it more convenient to type them and/or use a notes app for easy storage (Kuther 2018).

Taking Notes from a Reading Text – Avoiding Plagiarism
When making typed or handwritten notes on a reading, you must remember to carefully distinguish your own paraphrases/summaries from direct quotes from the text (Kuther 2018). If you do not, you may forget later that the words belong to a particular author, and accidentally plagiarise the text in your written work. Always indicate the exact words from a source using “quotation marks” and, if necessary, also a reference to the source and page (if available), for easy reference, e.g., (Averill 1982, 58) or (Aristotle, cited in Averill 2011, 59).
Creating and Using “Speaker’s Notes”
Ineffective presenters often bore their audiences when they simply start reading sentences from their note sheet or script. If your notes are in full sentences, you may be tempted to read them when you get nervous or behind schedule. Notes that use symbols and abbreviations can’t be used in this way, so you will always have to make your own sentences.
Common Symbols & Abbreviations

Using the shorthand symbols and abbreviation techniques below might improve your note-taking efficiency (Hampton 2015).

& or + and, plus, with
minus, without
= equals, is the same as, results in
does not equal, is not the same as, does not result in
is approximately equal to, is similar to
¬ is not / does not
< is less than, is smaller than
> is greater than, is larger than
increase, rise, growth
↗ ↗ rapid increase
decrease, fall, shrinkage
↙↙ rapid decrease
or therefore, thus, so
b/c because of, due to
leads to, produces, causes
x no, not, incorrect
xx definitely not, disproved
? uncertain, possibly, unproven
yes, correct
✓✓ definitely, certain, proven
# number, number of
* special, important, notable word or phrase
n.b note this important point (Latin: ‘nota bene’)
/ per – for example, £50/day instead of ‘fifty pounds per day’
c. approximately, roughly, about (abbreviation for the Latin ‘circa’)
e.g. for example
i.e. in other words (usually used when adding more detail or an explanation)
cf. compared to, by comparison with
vs. against, in contrast to
w/ with
w/o without
v. very
vv. extremely
C century (e.g. C19 for ‘nineteenth century’)
etc. and so on, etcetera
K or k a thousand (e.g. 500K for ‘five hundred thousand’)
m a million (e.g. $6m for ‘six million dollars’)
Two Abbreviation Techniques (Hampton 2015)
Use the first few letters of the word – just enough to remember what the abbreviation stands for, e.g.
  • imp. for ‘important’
  • info. for ‘information’
  • eval. for ‘evaluation’
Remove all (or most of) the vowels from the word and use just the key consonants bunched together, e.g.
  • mngmt for ‘management’
  • mkt for ‘market’ (and mkting for ‘marketing’)
  • dvpt for ‘development’
N.b., you can and should also invent and use your own abbreviations, especially for words or phrases that occur frequently in your subject area BUT don’t invent too many and, more importantly, use them consistently. Also, if your notes are being assessed, it’s probably best to use full words instead.
TASK: Translate Example Notes to Full Sentences
What do you notice about their presentation/arrangement on the page? Try to “translate” the notes into full English sentences and say them aloud (Adapted from Hampton 2015).
  1. EU Demography
    • UK pop ≈60m ≈ Ital. BUT Ital. pop ↓ b/c BR < DR
    • Cf. UK pop ↑ slow ie 0.09% btw ‘95 – ‘2K
Notice that:
  • The notes are arranged as a numbered list of topics
  • Important points are noted as elements in a nested bulleted list
  • The vertical arrangement makes points easier to find
SUGGESTED ANSWER: Firstly, let us examine some demographic trends across the European Union. The United Kingdom’s population, at around sixty million, is similar to that of Italy, but Italy’s population is now shrinking because its birth rate has fallen below its death rate. On the other hand, the UK’s population is still growing, albeit very slowly – at a rate of 0.09% between 1995 and 2000.
  • On my course, presentation and discussion “speakers'” notes must be in the shorthand note form outlined above, to require you to speak, not read, to your listeners.
Hampton, Martin. 2015. “Helpful Abbreviations for Speedy Note Taking.” University of Portsmouth Website.
Kuther, Tara. 2019. “8 Tips for Taking Notes from Your Reading.” ThoughtCo. Accessed October 10, 2019.
Oxford Learning. “How To Take Study Notes: 5 Effective Note Taking Methods.” 2017. Oxford Learning. May 3.