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Academic Integrity

Note Making

Note Making

Why should you make notes? There are several reasons why note-making is such an important part of your academic research.

Effective note-making is part of the bigger picture of successful academic practice. It is one of a series of tasks you need to do to produce an effective, well written and well researched assignment. Your tasks will include analysing your assignment question carefully, gathering information, note-making, paraphrasing, synthesising, paragraph writing and referencing.

  • reading the assignment carefully– making sure you understand all the requirements of the assignment question
  • Gathering information – data search
  • Note making
  • Paraphrasing
  • Synthesising
  • Paragraph writing
  • Referencing

They all work together towards a finished product – your written assignment!

Note Making

Note-making also allows you to learn about your research subject. Effective note-making means that you don’t just remember the ideas of others. It is not just ‘note-taking.’ In note-making you will also expand the way you think about your topic and produce new ideas of your own: it allows you to formulate ideas, and allow these ideas to become part of your knowledge.

  • It allows you to learn and think about your research subject
  • The process allows you to formulate ideas
  • By organising others’ ideas into your own structure, they become part of your knowledge.

Note Making

Sometimes it can be hard to know what to write down when you are taking notes and what to leave out!

You might ask :

  • “I don’t know which part is important”
  • To the author, ALL of it is IMPORTANT
  • To the scholar? – The part/s that provide information AND evidence to give support to your assignment argument.

Always have your assignment question and your own thesis statement in mind when you take notes. Remember what the question is asking and how you have decided to answer it. Then look for information and evidence that relate to those two things.

To see the IMPORTANT parts, you must read with the question and thesis statement in mind.

Note Making

Other tips for effective note-making include learning to make notes only on what you need. Items that are often important to note down include: names, dates, specialised terms in your subject area, key arguments the author is making and evidence for and against your own ideas.

Items important to note down:

  • Make notes only on what you need. Learn to identify key points
  • Names
  • Dates
  • Subject specific terms
  • Arguments
  • Evidence for and against

Avoid falling into the trap of writing things down ‘just in case’ you ‘might’ need it!

Note Making

Don’t forget to look for ‘signpost phrases’ ortransition markers. These are phrases that connect different sentences. They communicate relationships between ideas.

Transition Maker

Note Making

Transition markers perform different functions. Some of them tell you that the next point will exemplify or illustrate the previous point. Or they might acknowledge that there is another side to the argument, through words like ‘although’ or ‘despite this’. They can also tell you the author is about to sum up or give you the results of the experiment or research.

  • Exemplifying
    For example, for instance, in particular, to illustrate
  • Conceding a point
    Although true, even though, although, despite this
  • Summing up
    To summarise, to conclude, in conclusion, clearly then
  • Stating a result
    Therefore, thus, as a result, consequently, accordingly, for that reason.

Note Making

Repeat transition

Other transition markers are words that are repeated at the beginning and end of paragraphs. This can tell you that they are important or worth noting down.

For example:

Hard work, specialist knowledge, and the ability to apply yourself to new situations are the keys to professional success.

Professional success is not, however, the only factor in leading a fulfilling life.

Repeat transitions can also give you clues about the next step in the author’s argument.

For example:

.… in these conditions students are not motivated to perform well.

Such a lack of motivation must be addressed by analysis of the learning situation.

Learn to recognise the signs: then you can see the direction in advance and your brain is in gear to pick up the important parts.

Note Making

Even before you start reading, it is important to make some notes on things you already know or want to find the answers to.

Things you already know could include: the topic, your thesis statement in response to the topic, key words you know are important, and bibliographical details of the work. Then you could note down your own questions or particular things you would like to find the answers to in your reading.

Prepare your page BEFORE you start reading

Note down
  • The Topic
  • Thesis statement
  • Key words
  • Bibliographical details
  • Your own sub-questions


There are three different times at which you could be taking notes.

The first is before you begin reading.

The second type of note-making takes place during your reading or listening to a lecture. This kind of note-making has two distinct phases. The first of these is reading for quick key points. Reading for quick key points is when you can scan or skim.

Scanning is looking for the answer to a particular question you already had before you began reading the page.

Skimming is reading down the page quickly to get a general idea as to what it is about.

The second phase of note-making during reading is reading for detail. Note-making skills you could use at this stage could include: underlining, highlighting, and selecting words and phrases to note down carefully.

The final type of note-making is when you read over your notes. You can make sure they make sense and cut out anything you don’t really need.

Note Making

At any stage of your note-making it is essential to distinguish between your ideas and those belonging to another person or group.

One way to ensure you do not plagiarise or write down another person’s ideas as your own is to always provide bibliographic details for any ideas that do not belong to you. This will ensure that you do not accidentally include those ideas in your own work when you come to revise or summarise a topic.

For example, Smith, 1997, p. 34.

Note Making

When you are making notes, new ideas may occur to you that have been inspired by the thoughts of others.

Arriving at these new ideas is an important and exciting part of the note-making process. Your own pre-existing ideas plus the ideas of others (which you always acknowledge through careful referencing) can lead to new ideas of your own.

Note Making

How should you take notes by hand?

Make sure you leave spaces around your notes. Don’t forget to write down the date, the author of the paper, the title, publication details and any relevant page numbers.

Leave space around your notes

The brain likes clear spaces!

Make a note of:

  • the date
  • the name of the author
  • the title of the work
  • the name and place of publication
  • number each page

These tips are useful for when you come to revise later. Also, the brain likes things to be filed and organised!

Note Making

How to take notes when you are using a laptop?

Shut down all other programs – such as internet chat sites and social pages – to avoid distractions. This will stop you from making mistakes in your notes. Also, make a note of the date, the name of the author of the paper you are reading, the title and date of the paper, publication details and any relevant page numbers.

Shut down all other programs - get rid of distractions!

Make a note of:

  • the date
  • the name of the author
  • the title of the page or article
  • relevant page numbers

The Endnote software is very useful for keeping track of bibliographical information.

Note Making

When taking notes, it can be useful to make words or phrases stand out from each other. This can be done using asterisks, putting important points into boxes or highlighting parts that are linked together in the same colour.

  • Use underlined headings and sub-headings
  • Break up your notes into manageable chunks
  • Create your own symbols.

Asterisk REALLY important parts

Put outstanding points into a Box

Highlight parts that are linked together in the same colour

Note Making

Remember that note-making is part of a 7 step cycle.

This cycle includes: reading the question, initial thinking and planning, looking for sources, reading, note-making, and writing. You might find you work through this cycle several times before your assignment is complete.

  • Read question – debrief
  • Brainstorm – your own ideas on topic
  • Find up to 3 sources (no more at this stage!)
  • Read – use academic reading techniques
  • Make notes – always with the question and thesis statement in mind!
  • START WRITING! – one or two or three middle paragraphs – quoting, paraphrasing, synthesising from your notes
  • Restart cycle until written assignment is complete with Introduction and Conclusion.

Note Making

Always keep in mind the fact that your notes are part of a larger plan. Try not to become distracted by details which don’t relate to your assignment topic. And add your own ideas to those belonging to others as often as you can. This will ensure that you keep thinking as you make your notes and don’t slip into ‘robot-mode.’ This work is part of ‘synthesising’ which will be examined later in this program.

One final tip on note-making!

  • You’re not making notes as an isolated activity
  • You are making notes to use others’ information and ideas to develop your own thoughts in your own assignment.
  • In your note-making, it is also good to add your own ideas along the way – this is part of SYNTHESISING.

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