Academic Skills
Christine Bauer-Ramazani


I.  Why take notes?

    ***  1.  lecturers cover material that is not in textbooks; expand upon topic with own research, examples

            2.  to recall concepts, facts, relationships, explanations

            3.  to increase storage of information in long-term memory; decrease amount of forgotten material

·        to increase amount of material remembered (each review increases recall by 20%)

            4.  review/study for exams


II.        How are lectures organized?

            1.  basic organization: introduction, body, conclusion

            2.  top-down; relationships indicated by cues (signal words), e.g. "if" (cause/effect); "in other words" (restatement)

            3.  concrete examples: personal experience, etc.

            4.  digressions


III.  Note-taking format: CORNELL METHOD

·        date, page number, title, professor

·       divide page into 3

                        - leave margin on both sides: 1"

                        - main topics (underlined) against left margin

                        - indent major supporting explanations

                        - indent supporting examples, further explanation

·        use margin for review questions, important terms & concepts (summary), questions for the professor

Course #
Lecture title page #


  • ??? (Qs for prof.)
  • Review Qs
  • Important terms & concepts

Margin: 1"



  • supporting point #1 
  • supporting point #1
          Reason:  ___________
          Stats:  _____________


  • supporting point #1
  • supporting point #2

IV.  What to take notes on?

            1.  important points: main ideas

            2.  supporting points

            3.  explanations

            4.  whatever is emphasized through changes in

·        stress and intonation

·        speed of delivery

            5.  Subject and verb carry focus; complement carries explanation


V.  What NOT to take notes on?

·        digressions, personal experience


VI.  How many notes to take?

·        better too many than too few

·        use pauses, digressions to fill in missing parts


VII. How to take notes?

·        not in sentence form (but in phrases)

·        NOT in native language; occasional words ok

·        RESTATE information in own words

·        SUMMARIZE information

·        drop articles, auxiliaries (be, have), unstressed words

·        use abbreviations and symbols

a. Standard Symbols & Abbreviations (see list) + personal ones

                        b.  first 1-2 syllables (4-5 letters)

                        c.  drop vowels: bldg, mrkt, mgt, xchg

                        d.  add the last letter to distinguish the word from other ones: prod.n, prod.y


VIII.  How to deal with visuals (slide shows, video clips)

Note this misconception: Exams will only cover bullet points on visuals.  NO!  Exams will require knowledge of the supporting explanations, i.e. what the lecturer said but did not include on the visuals.

IX.  How to deal with questions (by the lecturer/video/students)

Important notes:

American undergraduate/graduate students are held responsible for ALL MATERIAL COVERED IN CLASS AND ASSIGNED IN READINGS.  It is considered rude to show up for class unprepared or to expect the professor to review material with individual students who missed class.


Important suggestions:

·        Ask questions immediately about terms/concepts mentioned in the lecture or on visuals that were not explained.

·        Ask the professor after class about vocabulary/unclear concepts/additional explanations.

·        Go to the professor's office during office hours regularly to clarify questions/concepts not understood in the lecture or text.

·        With the lecturer’s permission, record the lecture as back-up but take notes in addition.

·        In case you missed a lecture, borrow a classmate’s notes and copy them BY HAND in your own notebook; DO NOT EXPECT the professor to go over missed material with you.

·        Ask the professor for any handouts that you did not receive.

·        MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE PROFESSOR RIGHT AWAY to go over material you have not understood.

copyright © 2005: Christine Bauer-Ramazani; last updated: Sept. 2, 2019