Taking Notes for Someone Else

These are some practical suggestions for taking notes for someone else, as well as strategies to help you improve your own notetaking abilities.

General Info:

  • Be sure of your purpose and the speaker's purpose.
  • Sit up front so you can see and hear better.
  • Ask questions if permitted; if not, jot down questions in your notebook.
  • Soon after the presentation, review your notes, rewrite skimpy or incomplete parts, and fill in gaps you remember but didn't record.


  • Record the date, place, topic/title and presenter.
  • Number your pages.
  • Use dark ink and write on one side of the page.
  • Use a double entry notetaking system (see "Cornell Notetaking System" handout)
  • Write neatly. Make notes complete and clear enough to understand when you come back to them.
  • Use shorthand ('Fe' for iron, '=' for equals, '@' for at, etc.) and abbreviations. Feel free to develop your own set of abbreviations, but please put a key at the top of the page so your notes can be understood.
  • Highlight important items with asterisks or draw circles or boxes around critical info. Indentation, underscoring and starring are also effective for indicating relative importance of items. Show uncertainty with a circled question mark.
  • Leave plenty of white space for later additions. Skip lines. Leave space between main ideas.

Taking Lecture Notes

The Goal: Capture the lecturer's ideas as accurately and fully as possible in the order the ideas are delivered, to allow for analyzing, reflecting and making them your own.

The Reason: To make a record of the lecture to fill the gaps created by the massive forgetting that will take place during and after the lecture.

5 Essential Steps for Mastering Your Notes:

  1. Record the information
  2. Reduce the ideas to a key word or phrase in the left-hand margin
  3. Recite it without looking at it, and if you can't, you don't know it
  4. Review to get a complete picture of the ideas that were recited
  5. Reflect by speculating on the implications of the facts and concepts