IMPORTANT: For more information on being a note taker, please visit the SAS website (

Note-taking Procedures

Step 1

You must upload your sample notes so that you can be selected as a notetaker. Click on the 'Courses / Notes' link in the menu on the left, then click on the 'Upload sample notes' link for each course in the list and follow the instructions to upload your sample notes.

Step 2

You will receive an email once you have been selected as a notetaker, to notify you that you should begin uploading your notes.

Step 3

Once you have been selected as a notetaker, you must upload your lecture notes after each lecture. Click on the 'Upload notes' button beside the course you have been selected for, and follow the directions to upload your notes.

Please note:

Notetakers are eligible to receive a letter of reference for their exceptional contributions to this program. Honourariums will not be issued for volunteer services this year.

Taking Effective Notes for Yourself and Others

At the top of the page list the course code, the date, and the name of the instructor. Also remember to number the pages. At the end, it is helpful to write page 1 of 4, or however many pages you have gathered.

Some Technical Points to Remember

Don’t use highlighter. It will not scan or upload properly. Don’t make notes in different colours, unless all the colours you select are dark. The colours will not scan or upload clearly.

Some Advice on Taking Good Notes

  • Listen for the main focus and major divisions in the content.

    Don't try to write everything down, though it may be wise to err on the side of too much writing, rather than too little. Try to establish the purpose of each lecture. Try to indicate how parts of the lecture are related as you go along.
  • Listen for structure.

    Most lectures have some inherent structure, from which you can determine some kind of outline. Sometimes the outline will become clear as the instructor talks; sometimes the outline will be provided on PowerPoint slides.
  • Pay attention to verbal cues.

    Listen particularly for words and phrases that demonstrate the organizational structure of the lecture. Listen carefully to the introduction, as a guideline to how you should organize notes. If the lecture begins with, "Today I'm going to talk about three sources you should read for your assignment," then you have a preview of what will follow. Note "signpost" words that mark a transition from one point to the next, such as "next" and "lastly" and numerical signposts like "first" or "second."
  • Practice.

    Learning to concentrate and listen actively is an important skill for learning. Practice will improve your note-taking ability over time.
  • Learn to write quickly.

    Or type quickly, if you're using a laptop. Use abbreviations. Eliminate small words, especially words like "a" and "the" since they are not important to the meaning.
  • Write down definitions.

    If your instructor defines a term, make sure you note it carefully.
  • Don't copy outline or PowerPoint notes word for word unless the slides will not be made available.

    Instead, use the notes to help you understand what is important, adding materials as you go.
  • If your instructor indicates that something is important, mark it with an asterisk (*).

    This is usually an indicator of something that is essential for study.
  • Err on the side of writing down too much.

    Writing also helps you pay attention, so that you do not miss important information.

Taking Useful Notes*

  1. Use dashes for words when the speaker goes too fast. Leave space so that you can fill in details later.
  2. Use symbols to call attention to important words: underline, CAPS, circle, box, *, !, ?, or › .
  3. When the instructor says, "this is important" get it as exactly as you can and * (mark it). Get a reference to the text or other source if you need one.
  4. Don’t erase a mistake and don’t black it out completely. Draw a single line through it. This saves time.
  5. Abbreviate - Shortcuts, such as abbreviations, are quick alternatives to writing everything in full. Abbreviate only if you and others will be able to understand your own symbols when you go back to study your notes.

Commonly Used Symbols and Abbreviations:

& and
No. or # Number
= equal to, is the same as
b/4 before
ref. reference
w/ with
> greater than
< less than
i.e., that is
vs. versus, as opposed to
e.g., for example
etc. e.g.,
Q. question
b/c because
w/o without

*From "*How to Succeed in College" by Gerow & Lyng and "Study Skills: A Student’s Guide for Survival" by Carman & Adams, Jr.

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