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Notetaking suggestions

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Here are some suggestions for developing your own notetaking system:

  • Begin a filing system using one or more loose-leaf sheets, cards, or a computer file for each book or article read.
  • Record full bibliographic information at the top of each page, card, or computer file. You can number each one if you wish.
  • Record a page number for each note taken.
  • Differentiate quotations, paraphrases, and own comments. (Remember you will need to acknowledge the ideas of others using appropriate referencing conventions.)
  • Use abbreviations, symbols, etc. to compress notes as much as possible. (But make sure you are familiar enough with these shortcuts to understand your own notes in six months' time.)

A good notetaking system will include other features such as:

  • Wide margins on both sides of notes (for additional comments and cross-referencing)
  • Topic label for sorting notes later (e.g. using keywords of essay topic).
  • Labels for main points and sub-points to show logical structure (e.g. numbering/letters/underlining).

Many students prefer to take notes on loose-leaf paper. Some prefer using A6 notecards in order to catalogue books and articles that they have read - or even for taking notes on. These cards are small, which limits the amount of notes you can actually take. They are easily rearranged, and can be stored in a shoebox.

Many students now take notes using their computers.

At school, you may have incorporated references directly into your writing as you wrote. This is increasingly difficult at university, as you must often deal with a number of different sources for one piece of writing.

If you are taking notes from a book or article you need to record the following:

  • the name of the author
  • the title of the book (or journal)
  • the date of publication
  • the name of the publisher (or in the case of an article, the volume number, and the first and last pages of the article, e.g. pp 62-94.)

If you think there is any chance that you will want to make a quotation or a direct reference to the text in your writing, it is important to record the relevant page numbers. It is very annoying to have to chase up books at the library when you have forgotten to record a page number. If the book or journal is from the library, it is a good idea to write down the library catalogue number.

For more information on appropriate referencing conventions, go to the following page on the University Library website: How to acknowledge what you've read Opens in a new window - Virtual Librarian, Monash University Library. (Note: this page will open in a separate window.)

For more information on abbreviations, symbols, etc., to use in your note-taking, go to the Common abbreviations page on the Listening tab of this website. (Use your browser's Back button if you want to return to this page.

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