In a previous post, I wrote about a few general strategies to use while taking notes in graduate school.  Those methods included digitally and manually taking notes and the pros and cons of each.  With this second post, I wanted to provide a short list of tips for taking notes while in grad school.  These will help you hone your note-taking skills and become more organized with your school work.


Do try writing Cornell notes. Cornell notes are written into a certain format to stay organized, and they require you to critically think about lectures and articles.  They are written into sections: keywords in the left column, notes in the right column, and a summary underneath both columns.

Do use different notebooks. If you use only one notebook for all your classes, it would be confusing and unorganized, and you’d probably lose important notes.  Separating notebooks by subject will help you keep better track of your notes both physically and mentally.

Do write them multiple times. You might turn your nose up at this tip, but if you review your notes within a couple hours of taking them and then rewrite them on index cards, this will help you soak in the information you learned.  Plus, they’ll be easier to tote around campus and study anytime.

Do record lectures. After asking permission of the speaker or professor, record their talks with a reliable device. This is a great way to play it back and take additional notes, to listen to something that you didn’t catch, to clear up notes that don’t make sense, or to review for final exams.


Don’t rely on memory. Memory doesn’t always serve us as correctly as we think; and this definitely goes for graduate work.  You might be an auditory learner, but it’s still important to take some type of notes, even if they’re just summaries of classroom discussions and lectures.

Don’t abuse the highlighter. Most professors and other experts will tell you this same thing because many students end up highlighting the whole page.  If you have to, don’t study or write notes with highlighters; instead, use them afterwards for the most important pieces you want to feature.

Don’t write everything. The tendency, especially during lectures, is to copy or type everything professors say. However, if you listen to them and summarize their lecture in your own words, then you’ll be more likely to remember details.

Don’t only use one method. You might find that you’re more comfortable hand-writing notes while reading articles and typing notes while in a lecture.  Varying the way you write/type each set of notes might be beneficial because of the way your mind would process the different information.

The main goal in note-taking is to simplify as much as you can.  Students feel overwhelmed in grad school, and they don’t need another thing to hinder their success, like confusing notes, over-highlighted notes, or no notes at all.  Instead, focus more on summarizing and critically thinking about the lectures, seminars, and articles for your graduate classes.

Now it’s your turn; do you have any tips or tricks to share with other grad students about taking notes?

For more information about taking notes in grad school, take a look at these articles: How to Take Notes from Your Reading and Note-Taking in Graduate School.



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