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Academic Integrity - Referencing, Citation & Avoiding Plagiarism: Taking lecture notes

This guide explains what referencing and citation is and how to use the APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA and Vancouver Styles. It includes links to each style guide.

Quick tips on taking lecture notes

Be Prepared

Whether you are using technology, or pen and paper, have a separate folder or online space for each module. Also have an individual document for each lecture. Clearly label everything including Module name, lecture title, and date.

Find your spot

Make sure you can see, hear, and have a comfortable space to take notes. You might need to arrive early to get your spot.

Find your method

Use a physical method that suits you. That might be hand writing, typing, or assistive technology. They are your notes, for your use, so take control.

Review – last week’s lecture

Spend five minutes reviewing last week’s notes before the lecture starts. This will really help you understand the new content for this week.

Structure Notes

Use headings provided by the lecturer, or your own. Beginning, middle and end will do. If unsure you can leave gaps on the page for adding in meaningful headings after the lecture.

Key Points Only

Only write down key points and phrases, not every single word. Interpret these with your own added sentences or questions. Keep it short. Your purpose at the lecture is to listen and understand.

Review – this week’s lecture

As soon as you can, review your notes after a lecture. Think about the content. Fill in any gaps there might be and see if you can link content to previous lectures or course description. Note down any questions that come to mind.

Read references

Read up any references mentioned during the lecture and keep with your notes. Write down how these relate to your lecture. Highlight the themes. Always remember you will be reviewing these notes weeks, or months later, so they need to make sense.

Talk & Exchange

Talking with friends and exchanging views on lectures will help you remember content and see concepts from a different point of view.


University of York, Note Taking in Lectures

This video provides four approaches to creating notes: linear written notes, annotated slides, mind maps and an introduction to the Cornell note-taking method.

Further reading

The library has a wide selection of books on Study Skills. These will all have a section on taking lecture notes. Below are some titles that cover this topic.

Cottrell, S. 2013, The study skills handbook, 4th ed., Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Moran, A.P. 2000, Managing your own learning at university: a practical guide, [Rev.]. ed., University College Dublin Press, Dublin.

Moore, S. 2010, The ultimate study skills handbook, McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, Maidenhead.

Piscitelli, S. 2009, Study skills: do I really need this stuff? 2nd ed., Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, N.J.