Actively making your own notes is the best way to understand, learn and remember all the information that you will encounter when a student. Making notes aids concentration. Summarising information reinforces learning – and concise notes are also useful for revision for exams. There are various styles of making notes which you can try out to discover which suits you best – but key tips are:

  • always actively make your own notes – do not just download and memorise PowerPoint slides or old essays
  • review notes regularly if you want to learn the information in them











Look at these Student responses to
using notemaking, why it works
for them and what they got out of it...










What our students say about note making in this digital age


Look at this animation on Notemaking created by 3 students during one of our workshops

Check out this mini (poor quality!) notemaking lecture by Sandra Sinfield


The why and how of notes

Why do we make notes?

  • Help concentration
  • Provide a written record
  • Gather material on a specific topic
  • Record information/ideas
  • Promote understanding
  • Plan assignments
  • USE: for revision, to seed further research, in our assignments
  • It’s ACTIVE learning

How to make notes
Prepare beforehand – make active notes – review and revise after notemaking.

Always Focus:

  • What am I doing and why?
  • What do I know? What do I need – in this lecture? In this book?
  • What are the AIMS and LEARNING OUTCOMES?

Be active and interactive:

  • Search for key concepts, theories, names & dates
  • Summarise chunks of a lecture or reading in your own ‘key’ words
  • If capturing ‘quotes’, take down the exact words, indicate clearly that a direct quotation has been made and note the exact source (author, date of publication, where published, publisher, page number)
  • If you comment upon the lecture or your reading put these in square brackets or a different coloured ink so that you always know what is ‘you’ and what is the author or lecturer
  • Put question marks or exclamation marks if you disagree or agree
  • Include diagrams, charts, drawings
  • Draw your own cartoons and other memory triggers in your notes to make them distinctive and memorable

Notemaking styles
There are different styles of notemaking which you can explore to discover which are effective for you. Examples of these methods and others can be seen in the Activities and Reflection section below.

Linear Notes
Key points are given as headings with issues relating to each point listed underneath; use a system of numbering and leave plenty of white space.

Cornell Notes
Cornell notes are an active linear notemaking system. Divide the page into three, use a third to capture main points and ideas; one third to summarise these into key words; the bottom third of the page gives you a space to write down questions and link with other ideas, theories and concepts – or link to the assignment you are researching.

Patterned Notes
The topic of a lecture or an article is written centrally on the page and linked ideas are added as branches. This is a visual method of showing connections between ideas.

Like patterned notes, but one word per branch – see Tony Buzan – the words and images are supported by colours and symbols to represent ideas. They are particularly useful for visual learners but the ‘brain-storming’ approach to thinking and making connections are effective for anyone.

Referencing & Recording sources

  • Always record the source of your notes whether it’s a lecture, a journal, a book, a website
  • Include author(s) (date) Title, place of publication: publisher (for books)
  • For journals: date, issue and volume numbers
  • For websites: URLs and the date you accessed them

Reviewing your notes

  • After notemaking DO something – if you don't, you will forget 98% of the information in just three weeks!
  • Discuss with a friend
  • Reduce to shorter version
  • Illustrate with memorable cartoon or infographic
  • Set new goals: what will you now read or write?

Check out our interactive NoteMaker:

The what, why & how of making notes:
Information on why it is important to make notes – what sorts of notes you might like to make – and an opportunity to watch short videos and practise making notes:

notemaker icon


Information, further research and reflection

On your own or with a friend or study partner, review the following websites, resources and activities. Consider their usefulness to you as a student. If completing some form of learning log or blog for one of your modules, make comments and/or a posting on what the resource is and why it is useful.


Pinterest related link

Check out this wonderful Pinterest site...



Really useful WORKBOOK:

BOOKLET from Exeter University:

Quick guide to keeping references

Managing information – reading, critical thinking & notemaking:

Notemaking – with information & student clips:


Emily Danvers - Notes and tips on notemaking


Mini Buzan lecture on Mindmapping


Buzan's site – with 7-step guide:

For pattern notes and mindmaps:

If you like making notes on video – try video ant:

Cornell template generator:


"Why I Love Evernote": The Student Perspective

‘Note book’ site Evernote: On-line space for jottings, websites etc.

Concept map tools website:
Below is an illustration of an example of a concept map. It can be downloaded free from:

Concept map link

Prezi: a tool for making creative notes (& preparing presentations):

Visual Literacy site: check out different visual ways to represent information

Other Useful Stuff
Text to Movie resource:
Capture key points in your own mini-animation notes.

Visual notemaking using your iPad:

Draw to Learn

Avoiding plagiarism: short tutorial

Don’t forget to organise your DESK:

And that much of our notemaking is for our writing – check out our writing space: