Fiona McPherson, PhD

Now in its 3rd edition! This research-based manual on notetaking includes not only the obvious strategies such as how to format your notes and how to summarize, but also the more complex ones of how to evaluate text and how to ask the right questions.


Now in its 3rd edition!

You can predict how well a student will do simply on the basis of their use of effective study strategies.

This book is for college students who are serious about being successful in study, and teachers who want to know how best to help their students learn.

Being a successful student is far more about being a smart user of effective strategies than about being 'smart'. Research has shown it is possible to predict how well a student will do simply on the basis of their use of study strategies.

This workbook looks at the most important group of study strategies – how to take notes (with advice on how to read a textbook and how to prepare for a lecture). You’ll be shown how to:

  • format your notes
  • use headings and highlighting
  • how to write different types of text summaries and pictorial ones, including concept maps and mind maps (you'll find out the difference, and the pros and cons of each)
  • ask the right questions
  • make the right connections
  • review your notes
  • evaluate text to work out which strategy is appropriate.

There's advice on individual differences and learning styles, and on how to choose the strategies that are right for both you and the situation.

Using effective notetaking strategies will help you remember what you read. It will help you understand more, and set you on the road to becoming an expert (or at least getting good grades!).

Successful studying isn’t about hours put in, it’s about spending your time wisely. You want to study smarter not harder.

As always with the Mempowered books, this thorough (and fully referenced) workbook doesn't re-hash the same tired advice that's been peddled for so long. Rather, Effective Notetaking builds on the latest cognitive and educational research to help you study for success.

This new edition includes advance organizers and multi-choice review questions for each chapter, plus some more material on multimedia learning, and taking notes in lectures.




Publication date: September, 2018

File size: 2.3 MB / 226 pages


978-0-473-12561-5 (pdf)

978-1-927166-00-0 (epub)

978-0-9876522-4-9 (mobi)




1. Introduction

2. Making notetaking an effective strategy

     Notetaking is a strategy for making information meaningful.

     The importance of working memory

     What working memory is

     Working memory capacity and the magic number seven

     There’s more than one working memory

     Working memory is about attention


3. Highlighting important information

     An example

     What highlighting does

     What should be highlighted?

4. Headings highlight structure

     Do headings help memory?

     Headings are organizational signals

     How do headings help memory?

     Learning to use the topic structure strategy

     Do some individuals benefit more from headings than others?

     Effect of reading ability

     Readiness to think

5. Summaries

     Topical summaries and overviews

     Using overviews and summaries

     Advance organizers

     Creating summaries

     Summarizing step-by-step


     Summarizing isn’t just about the notes you take

6. Graphic summaries

     Outlines and Graphic Organizers

     Constructing outlines or graphic organizers

     Multimedia summaries


     Visual language

     Principles of visual language

     Arranging the information

     Information classes

     Individual differences

PART II: Connection strategies

7. Understanding connection

     An example

     Asking the right questions

     The value of anchor points

     Framing effective questions

     What this means for notetaking

8. Elaboration strategies

     Making comparisons


     Asking questions

     Elaborative interrogation



9. Concept maps

     When concept maps are useful

     Building concept maps: a case study

     When to use concept maps for taking notes

     How to concept map

     Common problems and their solutions

     Mind maps

     How mind maps differ from concept maps

     When to use mind maps

     Problems people often have


10. Taking notes in lectures

     How taking notes in a lecture is different from taking notes from text

     Why lecture notetaking is more difficult

     Are there special strategies for taking notes in lectures?

11. Using your notes

     Providing a record

     Focusing attention

     Helping you select what’s important

     Organizing information / Helping you make connections

     Helping you review

     Reducing cognitive load

12. Learning style and individual differences

     How individual differences affect your strategy

     Cognitive style

     Learning preferences

     Personal preferences and strategy choice

13. Choosing the right strategy

     Assessing the text and the task

     Evaluating the text

     Articulating your goal

     Choosing the right strategy

     Text Difficulty

     Text structure


     Personal style

     Summary of notetaking strategies


     Personal profile

      Web Resources

     Glossary of terms

     Example texts

     Answers to exercises

Chapter notes


"Your ability to learn is paramount to any activity you engage in. Your ability to learn determines the trajectory of your academic career, your work life, your business endeavours, and even your personal growth. "Note-taking" provides the framework for learning. All the learning strategies in the book take time, energy and a ton of motivation to master but take it from someone who's fruitlessly gone through "memory courses" in the past, if you make the techniques from "Note-Taking" truly your own it will not only open doors for you. You'll knock em down."  Paul

"You have helped me immensely in my academic endeavours. One of my pet peeves regarding teachers in general and academic institutions in particular, is that Metalearning (learning how to learn) is seldom taught, or even discussed. No, I'm not talking about those 'study skills' classes that suggest platitudes such as "make sure you have a good breakfast". I'm talking about truly understanding memory, note taking, reading for understanding, etc. within a personal context. ... Today I'm a straight 'A' student, thanks in part to your research."  Jose

"This has been by far the best book I’ve ever read on the subject of study skills. ... Your work is amazing. I got 4 A+ in my past semester from being a D student."   Simphiwe