Note-Taking Strategies

Note-taking is an important technique that should be used when finding, reading, and evaluating sources. The topic of your assignment and research question should guide your note-taking. The guide below takes you through note-taking strategies that can be useful during course lectures, when reading textbooks, or during source evaluation. 


Each professor has a different technique used to provide lecture notes (e.g. PowerPoint slides, fill-in-the-blank notes, handouts, or none at all). This can make note-taking a complicated process and may require students to learn multiple ways of note-taking. The following suggestions are provided to help with taking lecture notes.

  • Use an outline format for each class, giving each new topic a different title.

  • Emphasize main ideas and add complete thoughts using abbreviated text.

  • Avoid writing lecture word-for-word.

  • Start a new page of notes for each lecture.

  • Circle and underline keywords that are unclear or you need more explanation

  • Copy diagrams or other visuals used during the lecture 

These suggestions were adapted from the University of Washington Instructional Center.


Once you’ve obtained potential source for your paper, project, or presentation, the next step is to read and evaluate. Note-taking is an important part of reading and understanding sources. Below are tips & tricks for note-taking when evaluating sources.

  • Break reading assignments into smaller chunks and take notes section-by-section.

  • Preview the section you are going to read by identifying headings or subheadings. Use these as headings in your own notes to stay organized.

  • Once you’ve read a section, ask yourself questions like “What did I learn?” and  “What were the big ideas?” Add these to your notes as “Big Ideas” to summarize the text. 

  • Make note of the key information in your lecture notes. Fill in any lecture note gaps with your reading information.

These suggestions were adapted from the GVSU SASC - Reading & Research.


When evaluating your sources for content, reliability, and accuracy, use note-taking to keep track of important point, keywords, or questions you may develop. An important aspect of note-taking when evaluating multiple sources is including the citation. This helps to keep track of which source you are evaluating and where the information originates.

Use our Source Cover Sheet to take notes as you research!

Meet with a consultant

Have other questions? Research consultants can help! We specialize in brainstorming topics, finding sources, reading scholarly materials, and evaluating research. 

Stop by the Knowledge Market during open hours or make an appointment to talk with a research consultant.

Make an Appointment


Page last modified September 7, 2022