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  • Writer's picturePrem Sundaram

Defining Note-Taking, and How To Do Effective Note-Taking

What is Note-Taking?

Note-taking is the process of writing down or otherwise recording information from a source. This can be done for personal use, such as to record ideas or plans, or it can be done professionally, such as during a meeting or in the classroom. Note-taking is an important skill for everyone to learn particularly students, as it allows them to capture key information from materials and readings. Good note-taking makes it easier to refer back to critical information, especially for instance meeting notes. Notes allow you to organize your thoughts and help to improve comprehension. In this article we will explore what note-taking is, and how you can do it better.

What is Note-Taking?

Wikipedia defines note-taking as:

Note-taking (sometimes written as notetaking or note taking) is the practice of recording information from different sources and platforms. By taking notes, the writer records the essence of the information, freeing their mind from having to recall everything.[1] Notes are commonly drawn from a transient source, such as an oral discussion at a meeting, or a lecture (notes of a meeting are usually called minutes), in which case the notes may be the only record of the event. Since the advent of writing and literacy, notes traditionally were almost always handwritten (often in notebooks), but the advent of notetaking software has made digital notetaking possible and widespread.

How Do People Take Notes?

There are different ways that people can take effective notes. How much time do we have for this article!

Some people prefer to write down everything that is said, while others prefer to only write down key points. Some people also like to draw pictures or diagrams to help them remember information. There is no right or wrong way t, as long as the method works well for the individual. It is important that your notes help you to improve your comprehension of the subject matter, and have a structure that allows you engage in the material - whether from a presentation or from an exam. Taking good notes is a learned skill depending on the subject and context, and also depending on the note-taking system you are using.

Some people prefer using notebook and pen, some prefer long pad of paper, some prefer short notecards, some use a computer version of the above (you are on the right website!). Either way note-taking provides a way to track what's going on and increases the chance of being remembered. Some people will create an outline, and some will use templates like the Cornell method. Some will use handwriting, some keyboard, and also these days some next generation apps will just record as audio and have the meeting notes transcription at the end. The audio method certainly takes advantage of the modern technology today, and might help to capture information not found in notes, but studies show that handwritten notes tend to aid in retention, since the person is more active and involved, listening carefully and deciding what to capture. You are more involved with what you hear, and helps to focus your attention span!

Try to take concise notes, and do also make a summary of your class material. A paragraph that summarizes things can help when reviewing.

Note-Taking by Hand with a Pen

When writing by hand, be sure to use a pencil or pen that is comfortable to hold and write with. Write in a clear, legible handwriting so that you can easily read your notes later. Make sure to date your notes so that you can keep track of key ideas when they were taken.

Start by writing down the main points of what you want to remember. If you need to, you can add more details and examples later. As you listen to the lecture or conversation, jot down key words and phrases that will help you recall the main points. If you have trouble keeping up with the pace, don't worry about writing down every word verbatim; just focus on getting the main ideas down.

Take advantage of the pen situation by drawing shapes and ideas - something that you can't do when note taking with a keyboard.

When you're finished, go back and fill in any missing details and examples. Make sure to review your notes soon after taking them so that the information is fresh in your mind. The act of notetaking by hand actively helps you to remember the notes better and is a great idea. You are more focused and other things are less of a distraction.

Tools like NoteDex give you a view of your handwritten notes - the small previews of your notes also make it easier to find them later.

Tips to Organize Notes to Improve Retrieval

Here are some quick tips:

1. Get a notebook that you will only use for notes. This way, everything will be in one place. If you are using software, then use the folders to organizer your notes.

2. Write the date at the top of each page of notes. This will help you keep track of when you took the notes and what was happening at the time. Most software will automatically capture.

3. If you have a lot of notes from one day, you can divide them up by topic. For example, if you have notes from a History and a Math class, put History at the top of one page and Math at the top of another. You can use tags in software also to do this.

4. Once you have all of your notes from a certain day or topic, go through and highlight the main points. This will help you remember what is most important and make review easier. If you are using software, use the bold/highlight tools.

5. At the end of each week (or at whatever interval works for you), take some time to look over your notes and summarize what you’ve learned. This will help solidify the information in your mind and prepare you for tests or quizzes. This is a really important point - the more you are actively involved with your work, the better you will be at answering questions in a meeting or your test questions.

How to Enhance Creativity When You Make Notes

There are a few things you can do to enhance creativity when making notes. First, try brainstorming before starting . This will help you come up with ideas and make connections that you may not have thought of otherwise. Secondly, don't be afraid to experiment with different note-taking methods and strategies, and this is when using a pen can be helpful since you can create a mind map of ideas that can help you when planning a meeting. Find what works best for you and stick with it. Lastly, try to keep your notes organized and concise. This will help you to focus on the most important information and make it easier to review later on.

How to Take Notes for a Research Paper

For a research paper, start by reading the text and highlighting any important points. Next, make a list of the main ideas from the text. Finally, write down your thoughts and impressions about the text in a notebook. Notes for a research paper also means capturing your references notes, and tracking where you got the information from. Also being able to link your thoughts and organize your notes in visual way is very helpful.

How to Take Notes in Class

There are a few different ways that you can create notes in class. One way is to simply write down everything that the teacher says. This can be difficult to keep up with, but it is a good way to get all of the information from the lecture. Another way is to listen to the lecture and then write down key points that you want to remember. This can be easier to follow along with, but you might miss some important details. A third way is to record the lecture so that you can go back and listen to it later. This can be helpful if you have trouble taking notes or if you want to review the material later on. Whichever method you choose, make sure that you are paying attention in class so that you can get the most out of your notes. Luckily these days a lot of teachers will give the study material in form of a presentation or PDF that you can get an annotate - one feature of say an iPad with an Apple Pencil.

How to Select a Note App if Using a Keyboard

There are many factors to consider when choosing a note app if primarily using a keyboard. The first is whether you want an app that is specifically designed for taking notes, or if you are willing to use a general productivity app that has a good note-taking feature. If you are looking for a dedicated note-taking app, there are many options to choose from, each with its own set of features and price points. Good apps that come to mind include Microsoft OneNote or NoteDex. However, if you are willing to use a general productivity app, there are also many good options available, for example Evernote or Apple Notes.

Another factor to consider is what type of notes you will be taking. If you just need to take simple text notes, then any note app will likely suffice. However, if you need to take more complex notes, such as those with images or attachments, then you will need to find an app that supports those features. Additionally, if you plan on collaborating with others on your notes, then you will need to find an app that supports that type of collaboration.

Finally, you should consider your own personal preferences when choosing a note app. Some people prefer apps with a minimalistic interface, while others prefer apps with more robust features. There is no right app!

How to Select a Note App if Using Handwriting

There are a few things you should keep in mind when selecting an app for taking notes by hand. First, make sure the app supports the type of note-taking you prefer. If you like to draw diagrams or sketches, for example, look for an app that offers a built-in drawing tool. Second, consider how you'll be using the app. If you plan on using it primarily on your mobile device, make sure it has a good mobile interface. Third, think about what features are most important to you. For instance, if you want to be able to access your notes from anywhere, look for an app with cloud sync. Finally, read reviews to get a sense of what other users think of the app. Apps that get good reviews for taking handwritten notes include Goodnotes and NoteDex.

Notetaking with Notecards

Using short form notecards, like index cards or flashcards, are a great supplement to long-form notes. You are obviously not going to store that much on a notecard, but that is the point. That is why apps like NoteDex exist, to make you summarize and focus on the key information from your longer articles and lectures or audio recordings. If you want to be efficient in your next meeting you don't want to wade through all the previous notes - you want that summary of items that will allow you to create your next meeting agenda and project talking points.


The world of note-taking is big, and we hope this article has given you a helpful start. Do experiment and see if you prefer taking notes with a keyboard, a pen, or even recording.

Check out using a paper notebook, and also a digital one.

You might also find out that there is not one way that is best - different methods are great in different situations and different apps are good for different things.

Good luck with your note-taking!


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