Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.
The Study Hub Blog is the home for study skills resources and support with student life for all taught students at the University of Edinburgh, from first year Undergraduates to taught Postgraduates.
Making notes in class

Making notes in class

What does note-making look like for you? Do you feel you need to write down everything that is being said or written on the slides? You may worry about leaving something important out: what if it is on the exam? If this sounds familiar, you are certainly not alone.  

Note-making can be a powerful tool for you to take control of your learning and studying. All it takes is to think about the process and use it to your advantage. Here, we give you some tips for doing this.   


  • Think about why you are making notes in the first place. Are they to remind you of what was said in a lecture? Will they form the basis of an assignment? Are they going to be the start of your revision? 
  • Approach note-making as a way to engage with the material in a way that makes sense for you. Only then will you really understand the content, and by extension, learn it effectively.  
  • Find the note-making system that works for you: is it annotated slides, Cornell notes, pattern notes, concept, or mind maps? You may need a different system for different courses and parts of courses, and it may take some experimenting with each to learn when to use which. Similarly, it’s worth thinking about whether you’re going to handwrite your notes on paper or type them up on a laptop.  
  • Integrate note-making into your study routine. Ask yourself how the upcoming class fits with the rest of the content of your course. Check in more depth what the new class will be about and review any required key reading(s) and any class material.  
  • Do all necessary preparation before class. If there are any readings that you need to do, do them before class. If your tutors/lecturers provide you with slides or a class outline, read through that. That way you’ll know what the most important points/objectives are, so you’ll know what to focus on and note down.  


  • Note the important things: key words and main ideas, any meaningful structure (headings, subheadings, etc.), references, things to look up later, and any questions or comments you have. Leave space for any additions you may want, or need, to make afterwards. This way, you will not have to rewrite your notes. Do not worry about details, as you can get them later from readings, class material or watching key parts of the pre-recorded class again.     
  • Personalise your style: draw, colour code, use images, develop your own abbreviation code. Anything goes as long as it helps you remember and understand the material.     
  • Develop a filing system: From what class, when, which course? Label clearly so you can use your notes later.    


  • Add value and details: fill in any gaps, follow up your questions, summarise the key points.    
  • Do not be afraid to be critical and selective: in order to learn, you need to know what information is important, why it is important, and link it to what you already know. The point of notes is not to be exhaustive of every detail, but to be a solid platform onto which you build your understanding.    
  • Experiment, and do not feel you have to get it right first try. Note-making, especially in a class setting, takes practice. Allow yourself time to learn and develop.   

 Have a look at the Study Hub Making notes in class page for more ideas and tips on how to make effective notes.  

If English is not your first language it might be useful to have a look at the Listening to Lectures and Note Taking resource posted by the English Language Education service on their Independent Study Materials hub (EASE login required).  




Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.