How to take notes in a university lecture

Kari Clarkson


student taking notesNote-taking is a new skill you might have to learn as a university student. Taking notes in your lectures is a great way to help you retain information and your notes will be a great study tool for later in the semester.

Everybody has a different method for note-taking, so you’ll have to do a bit of experimenting to find out what works best for you. Here are a couple tips to consider when you are taking your notes.


Some people prefer the traditional paper and pen method of note-taking, while others like to use their laptops. Either method is fine, so use whatever is more comfortable for you.

Just keep in mind—if you decide to use a laptop, try not to get distracted by other features (social media, anyone?). Distractions can easily lead to you missing valuable information during the lecture.


Messy or neat, full sentences or bullet points—it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re capturing the key points of the lecture in a way you understand, go for it!

Don’t try and write every single word your professor says. Not only will this take forever, but it’s also not the best use of your time. Get the gist of what your professor is saying and make notes on the key points to save time.

students in a lectureDon’t forget about listening

If you haven’t taken notes in a university lecture, this might sound silly. If your brain is working really hard to take down every word of a lecture, you can sometimes forget to listen.

Think of it like watching a foreign film with subtitles. I find when I have to focus on reading and understanding the subtitles, I often don’t watch a lot of the movie. The same thing happens when you focus too hard on taking perfect notes—you don’t listen to a lot of the lecture.

To avoid this, make sure your notes are concise so you can free your mind up to understanding the concepts being presented to you.

Check with your professor

Check online or talk to your professor to see if notes or lecture slides will be provided prior to class. You can reference or print them out before the lecture to enhance your own notes. You can also print them off afterwards to cross-reference what you’ve written down.

Missing details

If you read back your notes and are a bit confused (trust me, it happens) talk to your friends in the class to help fill in the gaps.

You can also reach out to your professor to make sure you’re understanding important concepts.

Practice makes perfect

Nobody will be the perfect note taker on their first try. As you continue to attend classes, you’ll find note-taking strategies that work for you and those that don’t. Just keep practicing and be aware of what strategies are working for your needs.

For even more details on how to take great notes, download this document on effective note-taking strategies from our Student Learning Centre.

Want to learn more about the programs you will be taking notes for at our university? Download our viewbook to read all about our programs and faculties.

Download our viewbook

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