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Study & Research Skills

A guide to smart study and research skills

Smart note taking will help you succeed in learning new concepts, preparing for exams and writing excellent assignments.

Here are some useful tips to keep in mind:

1. Headings, Dot Points, & Reading Twice

  • Use headings in your notes so it's easy to find information later.
  • Dot points, instead of full sentences, means your information is concise and relevant.
  • If you're note taking from a text, read it once first just to get an understanding, before taking notes during a second read through.  It's worth the extra reading - your notes will be shorter and smarter!

2. Highlight & Annotate

Don't go crazy with the highlighter!  It only works as an effective strategy if you highlight small sections, one sentence, or even one key word.  

Highlighting is only truly useful if you annotate (notes that comment on the text or an image).

  • photocopy or print information and highlight important points during your first read
  • on your second read, write your own notes in the margins, describing why you highlighted what you did.

3. Copy, Paste, Summarise

Copy and pasting directly into an assignment is a terrible idea (plagiarism!).  Instead, copy and paste useful information into a document and then summarise it in your own words.  (See our How to Summarise guide for help)

Try this:
  • separate a page into three columns 
  • in the first column, write the bibliographical details of the text or website (remember to include the url)
  • in the middle column copy and paste information from a website or write notes from your reading

In the last column, write down three or more points summarising the key ideas from the text you've pasted into the middle column. Also include questions, any observations, things you agree or disagree with, things you don't understand, etc.

(From Ergo, State Library Victoria)

4. Know Your Style

Understand how your mind absorbs information.

‘The first thing is to know what kind of learner you are,’ - Dr Pont 

Are you visually-oriented or do you take information in that you hear? Is it helpful for you to type or write while you listen? Adjust your note-taking technique to suit your own style.