Kirsop Labs

Skills development for science students everywhere

Are you getting the most out of your lectures?

 

lecture-notes

Original article published January 2014. Updated by Dr. Allison Kirsop, November 2016.

 

Taking your own notes is a skill you need to develop while you’re an undergrad. 

 

So if you’re in your early years, don’t rely on printed handouts for the rest of your degree.

 

 

 

 

The lecture is where you can pick up nuggets of information that aren’t in the course slides. As an undergraduate, you’ll learn through practice how to make good lecture notes and get the most out of the course material. Here are some tips from a 5th-year chemistry student.

Take notes

This might seem obvious, but midway through my third year at university, I’ve only just realised how important this is. The lecturer may be kind enough to upload their notes online, or even to print them out for you, but making your own notes is still important. Even if they’re messy and you struggle to read them after, the act of writing the notes will have helped you to digest the lecture material. It’s obviously a lot more useful if you are able to read them

Even if they’re messy and you struggle to read them after, the act of writing the notes helps you to digest the lecture material. With practice and determination, you’ll be able to keep up with the pace of the lecture without making an absolute mess of your notebook and getting hand-cramp.

Read your notes after the lecture

The same day is probably the best option, but if not, try to do this as soon as possible. It reinforces the information in your head and helps you identify any errors you may have made. If something doesn’t make sense check with the lecturer or a friend – you might have copied something down wrong. If you throw your lecture notes aside until exam season, they’ll make little sense when you come back to them, and any errors might not be detected so easily.

Don’t worry if your concentration lags

It’s unlikely that your brain is capable of concentrating for 50 minutes straight. The most important thing is not to give up on the rest of the lecture just because you missed a bit of it and feel momentarily lost. Often, the lecturer will repeat things if they’re important. Or, you’ll be able to make sense of the bit that you missed by using what you learn in the remainder of the lecture.

Use colour

You can highlight key points. Use a contrasting colour to make curly arrows clearer in reaction mechanisms. Adding colour can make notes more readable and easier to follow, as long as you avoid doodling, that is. Used sparingly, it can help focus your eye on key points, just don’t overdo it.

Do not fall asleep

This is self-explanatory.

For more study tips, you should read:
Study hints for first class grades

Posted under: Study Skills

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About Sarah Piggott

5th Year MChem student from Staffordshire, England.

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