Research & Study Skills

Note Taking from a Text Book / Handout

  • Be selective. Don’t simply highlight or underline huge chunks of text. Read the text carefully and select only the important and relevant information that directly answers your question;
  • Read Twice. Try to read a document twice when you are note taking. The first time allows you to understand the main themes or arguments in the document, whilst the second time allows you to identify and note the key points;
  • Note the page numbers. Keep a note of which page you have taken each piece of information from. That way you can easily go back to the information at a later date without spending hours trying to remember where you first saw it;
  • Take care with quotes. Make sure that you copy them accurately, as missing just one word or piece of punctuation from a quote can sometimes completely change its meaning;
  • Keep your ideas separate. Sometimes, whilst you are note taking, you may be thinking of new ideas that need to be written down quickly before you forget them. Use a different colour pen to record these ideas, or you could end up being confused as to which ideas are from the book and which are yours;
  • Allow sufficient time. Do not expect to find the information you need straight away. It could take a whole morning, or even a whole day, to find a particular piece of information. Don’t view this as being a waste of time; it is a good day’s work!

From the Internet

  • Be very selective. There is a lot of unreliable content on the Internet, and you need to be able to identify and select the accurate from the rubbish;
  • LOOK FOR sites sponsored by universities and professional or academic societies e.g. The Historical Association, The Geographical Association etc.
  • AVOID online encyclopaedias, study-note sites and independent WebPages. These often seem like a quick and easy way to find the information that you need. However, many of these carry information that is at best flawed, and at worst inaccurate;
  • Note the URL address. As with noting page numbers, this will allow you to quickly re-find information at a later date.

From a Lesson / Lecture

  • Be selective. Don’t try to copy down everything that the teacher or lecturer is saying. You will quickly fall behind in your note-taking, and you cannot assume that the speaker will be prepared to stop to allow you to catch up;
  • Listen carefully to the speaker’s voice. Learn to recognise from the tone of their voice or their manner which parts of the lesson are important, and which are incidental. If a speaker repeats a point, it is quite likely that they are doing so because it is a significant detail;
  • Return to your notes. Once the lesson or lecture has finished, take time to review your notes. If they are messy or unclear, take time to fix them now whilst the content is still fresh in your mind.