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Ethical Topics: Note taking

What is note taking?

Note taking (or notetaking) is the practice of writing down pieces of information in a systematic way so that you can then use it later as part of a learning task or assignment.

Start with recording where the notes are being taken from.

For example:

  • Teacher Explanation of Project .....
  • Web site on Sustainability: http:// ....... Accessed on 17th May

Identify a time to go back and review your notes.

Are there any aspects that are confusing? Do you need to follow-up on any questions? Are there further areas to research?

Note taking templates

More Resources


Step 1: Why are you taking notes?

Note taking is not all about re-writing every work spoken or written. Your note taking techniques will vary depending on why you are taking notes. For example:

  • taking notes in class to remind yourself of what tasks you need to complete and when. 
  • taking notes from a novel to remember a main character and what their role is within a story. 
  • taking notes from a research paper so that you can interprete what knowledge the researcher discovered in relation to what you have already discovered about a topic.

Step 2: Note taking structure

Depending on what information you are recording will influence if your notes are structured or not

If you are recording course requirements and guidelines, it might be unstructured notes that you record, perhaps in a workbook for your class. However, if you are doing a literature review, you might start to classify your notes so that you can easily find them in the future.

Step 3: Read and reflect on your notes

If you are taking notes, then you need to provide time to go back and read them.

While reading, reflect and create connections between the knowledge that you currently have and also what you are trying to discover. Are there any connections that you can make with your previous notes? Are there any questions that arise as a result of re-reading your notes. Are there any ideas that you have to clarify or investigate? Are there any action items that come our of your notes?

Make time to read and review regularly. Improve your notes, convert them into your thoughts and conclusions or archive them if you no-longer need them.

Step 4: Followup on your notes

If you are processing notes from reading through research papers, take the time to properly cite and reference the document that you were using. Do this at the start of your research process rather than at the end.