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ENGL111-Composition: Note-Taking


There are two general ideas to keep in mind while taking notes:

1. Stay organized so that your notes are useful during studying or writing your paper

2. Focus on main ideas so that you catch all of the important information

Things to Keep in Mind While Taking Notes

  • Use abbreviations and symbols that you understand. It is important to be able to understand what you wrote while taking notes in order to learn from the notes when you refer to them later.
  • Write neatly. It does not help your studying or writing if you cannot read your handwriting.
  • Focus on key points. During a lecture, you will not be able to write down every word that your professor says. While researching and reading a book or article, it is a waste of time to quote directly from the source when you could write the key points and note the citation information to refer back to the source.
  • Note what you will need to cite the information (find more information about what you will need to cite here)! If you do not write the citation information when you first find the information, you may not be able to find it again. If you have the information but do not have citation information, the notes are useless because you cannot include them in your paper without citing!
Do not...
  • Try to write down every word that your professor says or copy every single word from a source. This is a waste of time.
  • Copy direct phrases without using quotation marks. This could lead to plagiarizing if you forget that this is a direct quotation instead of your own words.
  • Take notes during the lecture but not review them while studying. Taking notes will only help you learn if you review the notes at least a few times. 

Note-Taking Methods and Templates

What matters about the note-taking method or template that you choose is that it works for you! As you study different subjects, your professors will introduce you to many different methods for note-taking. Here is some information about a few that you may be introduced to or may find helpful to use.


This is the PowerPoint template that Mike Eisenberg, one of the developers of the Big6 Information Seeking Method, suggests students use. View the video here for more information about how to use this template to take notes. 

This is an example of the Cornell method of note-taking. Below you will find a few links to more information about the Cornell method. You can find more information about the Cornell method at either of these websites: Cornell Method PDF Generator or James Madison University's The Learning Toolbox

This is an example of using index cards to note key points during research. You can find more information about using note cards during your research here: The University of California's "Oops, I thought your words were mine!"

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