Creating Study Materials

Lesson Content

Inquire: Study Smart


Studying is very important, but it’s only as good as the material being used. This lesson covers effective ways to create study materials. Taking notes can be tough. A professor’s lecture can contain a lot of information, and it can be challenging to know what is important and what is not. This section will help students to identify the important parts of a lecture and how to use shorthand to keep up with what is being said.


Big Question

What is the best way to take notes?

Read: Make Notes Work for You


Studying is very important, but it’s only as helpful as the materials being used. This lesson outlines effective ways to create study materials.

Lecture Notes

When taking notes during class, it is important that students avoid distractions.They need to pay attention so that nothing is missed. Additionally, students should come prepared for note taking. Bring whatever pen, paper, or laptop is needed in order to write things down. If a student opts to use a laptop, they should keep a couple of things in mind.

First, do not allow the laptop to be a distraction. Do not open the Internet, games, or other homework. Only use it to take notes. Additionally, a laptop should only be used when the student is comfortable with typing and being able to keep up.

Format the notes like an outline. This will help with organization. Although some lecturers don’t always stick to an organized outline, it’s a good idea to try to keep the notes organized by topic or category. When taking notes, do not write down word for word what the lecturer is saying. Get the main points, and the rest can be filled in after class.

Reading Notes

When taking notes while reading, there are a few steps to follow. First, highlight information while reading. For books borrowed from the library or another source, instead of highlighting, write down the important information in a notebook.

After highlighting important information, go back through the highlighted information to create an annotation, which is a short paragraph that summarizes the notes that were taken while reading. After writing the annotation, attempt to answer the questions at the end of the section or chapter at hand. The final step of taking reading notes is to check the references for the applicable section and then begin repeating the process.

Library Research

Research in the library is invaluable to college students. Note taking during library research is very similar to taking reading notes. The same steps apply. However, the library brings a few extra benefits that might not exist at home.

First, libraries offer the ability to print materials. Printing off study materials will allow access to the information at any time without the need for a computer.

The second benefit offered by the library is the ability to make photocopies. When reading a library book, instead of writing down everything needed from the book, use a copier to speed up the process.

Online Resources, Notes, and Bookmarks

Online resources can be great study materials. The first step when using them is to check their credibility. Study materials that are incorrect will be worthless, so it’s important to ensure that the information is correct and complete.

Next, make sure the material covers what is needed for the specific assignment. Sometimes, materials might cover one portion of the necessary information, but not all of it. This is what is meant by making sure the study material is complete.

When using online resources, it’s tempting to study directly from the materials themselves. However, this will not provide the best outcome for learning and preparation. It’s important to treat online resources in the same manner as books or class lecture notes. Read the information, annotate it, and then seek out other resources to explain information in new or deeper ways.

Studying throughout the semester helps a student to prepare for final exams. As resources are found online, save them for future use as the semester progresses. Organize these bookmarks in a way that sections items together so that they can be quickly referenced when needed.

Vocabulary Cards, Mind Maps, and Other Study Tools

Some types of study materials are useful only for certain kinds of information or tests. For example, if a test is going to be vocabulary focused, then vocabulary cards are helpful tools. On one side of the card, write the word, and on the other side write the definition. Then, self-quiz by either reading the word and trying to remember what it means or by reading the definition and try to figure out what word it is.

A mind map is a helpful memory tool that consists of grouping information and connecting concepts together. This study technique is helpful for essay tests where it will be necessary to discuss several related concepts in one answer.

Reflect: Your Note Taking Style


How do you prefer taking notes?

Expand: Easy Note Taking


Taking notes can be tough. A professor’s lecture can contain a lot of information, and it can be challenging to know what is important and what is not. This section will help students to identify the important parts of a lecture and how to use shorthand to keep up with what is being said.

What Is Important?

The best way to know what information is important for note taking is to read the applicable text before going to class. Generally, the sections of the text will match the section of the lecture and when a student comes to class with an idea of what is going to be covered, it will help them to have a better idea about what is important.

Generally, the instructor will cover their main points using a PowerPoint presentation. The points covered on the slides are the things to write down. Additionally, anything the instructor writes on a board during a presentation is probably important and should be written down as well. Vocabulary words are also important, as are any sections that the professor emphasizes or repeats.

If someone asks a question during class, be sure to write down both the question and the answer. Having access the professor’s clarifications will make studying that much easier when it is time to use the notes taken during class.

If the professor references a book, an author, or a study, be sure to make a note of it. Students are not expected to read the entirety of every book or work referenced, but it can be helpful to to at least look at and be familiar with them.

How to Write It Down

Next, it is important to talk about what should actually be written when taking notes. First and foremost, do not write every word. Filler words, and articles like “the” or “an” are not that important. Write the major sections sentences in a way that is understandable but does not take so much time that the professor moves on before the note taking is complete.

Additionally, work on creating a unique shorthand. Instead of writing “with,” maybe use “w/.” If there is a term that the class uses quite a bit, find an abbreviation that is memorable but easy to remember. Shorthand is worthless if the student does not remember what something means. However, when someone finds a system that works for them, it can save quite a bit of time.

The final thing to note is that whatever is written down needs to be legible. Take time to make sure notes are written in a readable way and are organized for easy referencing in the future. Notes are useless if they do not make sense to the writer.

Check Your Knowledge

Use the quiz below to check your understanding of this lesson’s content. You can take this quiz as many times as you like. Once you are finished taking the quiz, click on the “View questions” button to review the correct answers.

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Additional Resources and Readings

5 Study Skills and Techniques for Students Who Want to Succeed in College

An article describing five ways to maximize study time

Effective Note-Taking in Class

An article providing an in-depth look at why students should take notes and how to take them effectively

Top 10 Study Tips

An article that describes several ways to improve study skills

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Content License

Lesson Content:

Authored and curated by Alexander Amos for The TEL Library. CC BY NC SA 4.0

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