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

Digital Resources

  1. Open Text Summarizer summarizes text ~ 40 different languages, identifying key words and allowing you to determine the summarization ratio.
  2. OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office Suite and provides versatility in note-taking, sharing, searching, and collaborating.
  3. MindMeister is a free-to-fee web-based application to support mind-mapping as a means of brainstorming, organizing ideas, note-taking, and project-planning.
  4. Diigo is a free to fee based online program that allows you to collect, organize, highlight, and annotate your web-based research information into your cloud library. You can highlight text, screen capture, or save archived web material to review any time.
  5. SMMRY: "A free, quick and easy-to-use summarizing website is SMMRY. Its main purpose is to provide an efficient and understandable summary to a text, and it does so by providing numerous options to customize the summary.":
  6. Summarizer is a web-based text summarization tool. You can upload url links and the tool will extract main ideas/details. A helpful way to quickly review resources during the research process.
  7. Online Summarize Tool (Tools4noobs): Under the website, Tools4Noobs is a good summarizing tool called- Online Summarize Tool, which is similar to other online tools but allows options in customizing the resulting summary that is not available in others such as maximum sentence length and number of lines.
  8. AutoSummarizer: "is another quick and easy summarizing website. This tool is still on its beta stage and is still on its way to being fully developed, but it is a very usable site despite this. It ranks sentences based on their value, and uses the extraction-based summarization algorithm."
  9. Free Summarizer: "A website for summarizing very simple but long texts is Free Summarizer. It is very quick and easy to use and allows you the option of determining the number of sentences you want the resulting summary to be."

Resources compiled by Alicia Brandon