The Purpose of Note Taking

One of the reasons that some people take poor notes is that they don’t actually understand why they’re taking notes in the first place. Understanding the purpose of your notes may not sound like a really big deal, but you have to ask yourself, “How do you accomplish something if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be accomplishing?” The answer, of course, is that you can’t because there’s really no way for someone to effectively accomplish a goal when they don’t know what they are supposed to do to accomplish it. This means that, for you to take good notes, you have to understand the purpose of the notes that you’re taking and the reason that you’re actually trying to take those notes in the first place.

Four Main Reasons Notes are Important.


  • The first reason is that they can help you locate the information that you need faster. This is because a set of well-organized notes will allow you to use headings, subheadings, and other similar markers to find the notes you need for a specific topic without looking through your entire notebook or your entire textbook.
  • The second reason is that they can help you learn the information that you need to learn. This is because most people have a much easier time learning information when they can hear it, see it, feel it, and apply it. This means that it will typically be easier for you to learn the information that you need to learn when you can hear it in class, see it on the board, write it down, and use your notes to complete your homework.
  • The third reason that notes are important is that they can help you review the information that you need to review. This is because a good set of notes will allow you to boil a subject down to its key points, so you can review those points later.
  • The fourth reason is that some of the classes and/or professions that you may enter will require you to take notes. This is because there are teachers and professors that will grade the notes that you take in their classes and will administer open-book tests that will allow you to use your notes (and, let’s face it, you don’t want to fail an open-book test because you didn’t have any notes), and also positions in certain occupations, such as nursing or law, that will actually require you to keep notes to meet your ethical and/or legal obligations.

Note Taking and Learning: A Summary of Research (pdf)