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Faculty of Humanities Study Skills Website

How to Take Notes

taking notes

There is no one "correct" way to take notes. Very different approaches can be equally effective, depending on the context.

The key thing is to ensure that you remain actively engaged with the material whilst note-taking. If all you do is copy down what you hear or read, then you won't actually be learning anything at all. You may not even understand your notes when you come back to review them later!

In brief:



  • copy out sentences or passages verbatim (i.e. word for word)
  • copy a mass of factual information


  • summarise - be concise
  • be as neat as possible
  • use headings and numbered points
  • use abbreviations/shorthand (but spell out personal or place names legibly)
  • leave spaces in between your notes (for amendments and additions)
  • note fully the author, title and other details (e.g. place and date of publication) of all works consulted, including page numbers where relevant

If you'd like to know more:

There are numerous formats for taking notes. Experiment to find a format that best meets your style and subject matter.

The following pages will introduce you to some common formats for structuring notes, and include some practical activities for you to try: