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Lowther Hall Nora Collisson Centre (Library): Study Note Taking


Studies that taking notes will help you learn, but most people don't know how to take notes, or at least, how to take them effectively.

There are many different ways of taking notes, and the best note-taking system is the one that works best for you! Here are a few different systems you might like to try, and some tips on improving your note-taking skills.

Read the text below to find out why and how to take notes, or if you prefer, watch one of the short videos below.

Duration: 7.37 min  Published: 2018

To highlight or not to highlight


If you reach for a highlighter as part of your toolkit of study techniques, should you?  Does it help?

Let's take a look at what the research says:

According to Jared Cooney Horvath in "Stop Talking, Start Influencing" highlighting is great if you want to point out important information to go back to. This is called reviewing but that is not what is needed for studying. 

According to New York Times science reporter Benedict Carey revealed in his book "How We Learn," highlighting passages is a feel-good waste of time. This is because you need to go back and synthesise the information. What you are doing by highlighting is a form of procrastination.

Highlighting gives an endorphin hit to the brain. It feels good, but doesn’t actually engage your brain. It makes you feel like you’ve learned something, when you actually haven’t.

How to shift from review to recall, generate learning and boost your memory.

Start by reading the information - all of it..

  • Look away from the text and write down the important points in your own words.
  • Look away from the text and think about how it fits into what you have already learned.
  • Return to the text and make sure what you have is correct.
  • Repeat until you have it correct.


  • Make flashcards. These will force you to retrieve the information from memory, rather than just glancing at the highlighted portion and thinking,

Study Tip: Use Graphic Organisers For More Effective Note Taking

When studying for exams or tests, it is not effective to just re-write your notes. It is often better to use only a few words and concentrate on the ideas.

Try some of these templates to organise your notes.

Affinity Diagram


Here's what to do:

1 Brainstorm everything you know about the topic on separate cards or post-it notes

2 Review your information, this time looking for similarities or whether they relate to each other in any way. Place them in columns.

3 Now look at your columns, and come up with a heading to summarise the idea

4 Review again and this time add different colours to make the connections.


Freya Model

A Frayer Model is a graphic organiser to help you determine or clarify the meaning of a key term


Label Diagrams 

Practise your vocabulary

Here's what to do

1 Gather your vocab list and a digram and go fo it!


Venn Diagrams

Use this to compare and contrast.



Use this for processes and sequences


Research Note Taking

Video: How To Take Great Notes

Duration: 5:09 min   Source:  How to Take Great Notes

Watch this short video to find out about an easy three step way to take effective notes. 

Study Tip: How to make a Mind Map

Video: An Introduction to Visual Note-Taking

Useful links