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Skills Guides

Note taking


Taking note of note-taking

Tips on note-taking applications, making and organising notes, and annotating electronic texts:

Active or passive note taking

Active or passive? quiz

Note taking can be active or passive. In other words, active notes include your own thoughts, words, and questions, meaning that you are already engaging with the material and not just copying it out. This quiz will help you to identify what is active and what is passive note taking so you can think about how you take notes and what you could improve.

For each note taking example, choose whether it is active or passive. Click on the "Next" arrow to begin.

Underline words and quotes in the text


Write your own explanation of what something says or means


Make connections within the text, to your topic and other texts


Write notes on everything you read


Copy direct quotes


Look for answers to questions you have, and make a note of relevant information


How do you take notes?

Well done. You got of 6 questions correct.

Now that you've taken the quiz, think about how you take notes. Do you use more of the active or the passive techniques that were listed?

If you use more of the passive note taking techniques, you're less likely to remember things you learn, so you may end up doing more checking of your notes when writing assignments or revising. Try out some more active learning approaches such as those found in this quiz and check the note taking guide for more handy tips.

Taking note of note-taking applications

Always losing your notes? Need an application which will work across different platforms? We showcase some online note taking applications, looking at how you can annotate PDFs and other online documents to be efficient with you note taking.

Note-taking in lectures

Take a look at the above link to see a couple of examples of note-taking using a tablet and stylus.

Grid notes

Grid notes is a useful note taking technique for assignments where you need to compare and synthesise information from numerous sources. You collect information under specific headings in a grid or table, which helps you to:

  • pull all your notes together in one place.
  • focus on finding just the information you need in sources.
  • identify patterns in source information.
  • plan structure and write.

Find out more:

From note-taking to note-making

Good note-making will help you to get the most from lectures and taught sessions:

This video provides four approaches to creating notes: linear written notes, annotated slides, mind maps and an introduction to the Cornell note-taking method.

There's more resources available to help you think about ways of studying and how you engage with lectures and other teaching sessions:

Some common note-taking abbreviations (select to expand)

et al.and others
c. approximately
cf. compare
decreases, falls
grows, increases
= equal to
equivalent to
> greater than
< less than
results from
results in, leads to
" same as above
similar to
esp. especially
N.B. Important
i.e. that is to say, in other words
pp pages
e.g. for example
v very
re with reference to

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