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Research Skills: Start

Note-taking is an important skill

Good note-taking provides a record of key information you can integrate within your own writing OR to use for exam revision. Taking reliable, accurate notes also reduces the risk of plagiarising.
It helps you develop your critical thinking in distinguishing where your ideas came from and what you think about those ideas.

Six Good Reasons to take notes

  • ​It helps you remember what you've heard or read
  • It helps you listen and concentrate more effectively
  • Taking good notes provides you with the foundations for understanding a topic. Good notes will help with an assignment or to study for a test.
  • Putting information your hear or read in your own words develops your understanding of a topic and your writing skills. 
  • Notes are a useful record of key information, and the sources of that information.

  • Notes taken in classes often contain information that can’t be found elsewhere.


Use the tips below to help you get started

As a general rule, it's best to:

  • read the text first to get the gist of it, then start taking notes on the second read
  • only record information that relates to your assignment question
  • use headings in your notes, so they're easier to skim through later
  • use dot points instead of full sentences and keep them short – one or two sentences is fine
  • use abbreviations or your own symbols for common words

The Cornell Note-taking Method is widely used by high school and university students as an effective way to organise and review key ideas from your class or from information you are reading for research.

Divide your page up, like this:


Notes column: The right, larger column is where you write your notes in class or while you read. 

Cues column: The left column is the Review/Self Test Area. As soon as possible after your class (within 1 day) write key words or questions that summarise the main points from the notes column. This will help you:

  • identify relationships between the ideas
  • help when you're reviewing for your exam. You can cover the right side of the page to hide the notes and test your memory using your cue words or questions. 

Summary area: The area at the bottom of the page is where you summarise all the main ideas in your own words. This area provides a quick reference when you're looking back on your notes, and will also help you identify what you understand and what information you may need to ask your teacher about.

Attribution APA 6th Edition:
Campea, K.
 (2011, June 26). Cornell Notetaking [Video]. Retrieved from