• TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
    Januar 2010

    Sektion 2.7. Neue Entwicklungen in der Psycholinguistik / New Developments in Psycholinguistics
    SektionsleiterInnen | Section Chairs: Elly Brosig (Stuttgart, Germany)

    Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

    Note-taking as evidence of language processing

    Danuta Gabryś-Barker (University of Silesia, Sosnowiec / Poland) [BIO]

    Email: danutagabrys@hotmail.com


    1.   Introductory remarks on language processing and note taking

    1.1. General comment

    This preliminary study looks at the bilingual/multilingual context in which a language user renders the information presented to him or her in an aural form (a lecture) into a written text (note taking). The context is educational, as note-taking is step one in preparing to take an exam (also written) based on the lectures attended. In such a context note-taking can be regarded as an important learning strategy and as such it should become a part of taught study skills. But it also constitutes evidence of how a learner/language user processes language data. In defining and characterizing a learning strategy, we should take into concern all these actions that learners take consciously with a view to solving a definite problem. It is an active process and involves all possible sources – both linguistic and non-linguistic (multisensory) - that a learner has. The variety of strategies employed by different individuals points to the obvious differences in their cognitive and perceptual styles, among them the ways they will process language data and the way they will record the data to facilitate the best possible retrieval.

    1.2. Functions of note-taking

    Note-taking can be carried out fro a variety of reasons and so may result in different forms of text (the notes thus produced). In answer to the question “Why take notes?”, Cottrell (2003) says that note-taking:  

    1. Creates a useful record:
      1. 1.of important points for future use;
      2. 2. of where the information comes from;
    2. Helps writing:
      1. helps ideas flow;
      2. helps planning – you can see what info you have;
      3. assists organization – you can rearrange and renumber notes in a different order
      4. helps you get started;
    3. Helps understanding:
      1. if you focus on selecting info to note;
      2. if you think through everything that fits;
    4. d) Helps memory:
      1. summing things up briefly helps long-term memory;
      2. the act of writing helps motor memory,
      3. pattern notes can be more memorable visually;
    5. Helps examination revision:
      1. material is well organized;
      2. more information is already in memory  (p. 128, adapted from a figure).
    1.3. The idiosyncratic character of note-takingIrrespective of what the purpose note-taking serves (often multipurposes), it is an active strategy and evidence of language processing (in all language contexts -  L1, L2, Ln). Different types of input will determine ways of note-taking, as a written input (a text to be summarized versus a lecture one listens to) will involve different modalities and,to a certain extent, different techniques will be applied in the process of note-taking. The difference in modality will then stem from a different type of input and will determine the ways of processing involved. In this study the observations are made on the basis of aural input (a spoken text - a lecture) and written output (expressing manual and visual modality). So the remarks concerning language processing initially will refer to comments on effective listening skills in response to this aural input and then to the written output, that is, the organization of the data memorized in STM short term memory)..Also what needs to be emphasized here is the role of the individual character of notes. We can then surmise that the way an individual encodes information is directly related to the way he/she retrieves this information from memory. Numerous studies (Armruster & Anderson 1982, Kiewra 1985 or Crooks & Katayama 2002) show that

    (…) when students construct their own study notes to accompany a corresponding text,  they often perform better than students who study from instructor provided notes (…)      The activity of  recording notes appears to improve the encoding function by requiring learners to process information more deeply than they would with instructor-provided notes (Katayama & Crooks 2003:295).

    Though the above quotation refers to a written text, it can also apply to a spoken text, for it may be assumed to be as Peper and Mayer (1986) rightly put it, the main facilitative aspect of taking notes by an individual as contrasted with using others’ notes. This derives from the fact that it is a creative process of relating prior knowledge to new elements, making connections between them – that is to say, it constitutes not just a neutral record of information but a stage in the learning process. Not only the very activity of taking notes but also the format they take will influence its effectiveness as a learning strategy. As studies illustrate, it is the spatial organization or the visual characteristics  of notes than contribute significantly to their effectiveness (Kardash 1988, Grant & Davey 1991). In other words, we may safely assume that note-taking illustrates different cognitive styles of processing data on the level of content and form, exemplified by different ways of encoding.     Since one of the variables determining a general approach to input processing in note-taking is the cognitive style of a learner,  it repays further attention. Numerous studies (Witkin et al. 1977, Frank 1984, Kiewra & Frank 1988) investigating the relation between note-taking and individual differences provide evidence that:

    (…) field-independent learners exhibit an active, analytical style of processing that allows them to impose spontaneously structure and organization onto unstructured stimuli. In contrast, field-dependent learners exhibit a passive, or rigid style of processing that leaves them dependent on, or bound to, the inherent organization of stimuli ( Kardash et al. 1988: 360, after Witkin et al. 1977)

    So it seems that the difference between these two cognitive styles is most visible at the moment of exposure to the stimulus data and its immediate encoding. For instructional purposes it will mean that, for example, lectures which are more structured and offer the learners clearly highlighted points of emphasis will greatly facilitate field-dependent learners’ ability to take notes, as these will be more or less directly reproduced  by them as they are heard.

    1.4. Effective listening and comprehension processes

    The ultimate goal of processing information we are exposed to is obviously to comprehend what we hear or read. This comprehension results from different types of information available to us:

    (…) input (linguistic and other communicative), knowledge (linguistic knowledge and world knowledge) and context (linguistic context and situational context) (Ringbom 2007:15): 

    As emphasized by Ringbom (ibid.: 15) in the context of L2 (FL) “For L2 comprehension, a learner often has to rely on context and extra-linguistic background, top-down knowledge, to fill in for deficiencies in word recognition”. Processing models of speech perception (e.g. Kintsch 1988) explain how speech is segmented and recognized:

    (…) linguistic input is processed in cycles on a segment-by-segment basis. As the phonological (or orthographic) stream arrives, it is rapidly recoded into propositions (or “idea units”) consisting of  relational terms (the predicate) plus a set of concepts to be related (arguments). At the next stage, the connections among propositions are established, with this relationship among the propositions represented by a network referred to as a coherence graph. At this level, the most important propositions to the message structure are selected on the basis of shared argument.
    (Wingfield 1993: 230-231)

    It seems then that coherence of the text results from the richness of propositions (ideas) and their linkages. Again studies on speech perception show that even rapidly spoken sentences can be remembered (and noted down) and then retrieved from memory if language was high on the “coherence graph” (e.g. Stine, Wingfield &Poon 1986). This model of language comprehension relates to native language context, but also to the context in which the text is delivered in L2/FL. If the competence of the learners/users is high, processing of language is highly automatic and separate from the L1 store (as other studies show). However, there may also be evidence of occasional slips when switches to L1 occur. .Input comprehension can only result from effective listening. The variables contributing to this process operate on affective, linguistic and cognitive levels, but also significantly they derive from external factors. Wong (2000: 182) classifies them in relation to: Wong (ibid.) highlights the importance of the affective level in listening and comments on the role of the affective filter in this process:

    A positive attitude towards the topic, the subject or the class, and the speaker lead to positive listening. A negative, disinterested, judgemental attitude will bring negative results by putting up barriers or shutting down your auditory channels that are required for good listening. 

    As mentioned earlier, effective listening skills will be determined by the mode of delivery  - here, by the lecturer. This mode of delivery results first of all from differences between speakers - here, non-native speaker lecturers:

    Variation is induced by differences between speakers, by degree of care taken in articulation, and most importantly, by the many changes in acoustic characteristics which occur when target sounds are coarticulated with other sounds in running speech (…) Research also suggests that there is lexical, syntactic, and contextual input to the speech perception process which operate in cases of unclear or unresolved acoustic information (Yeni-Komshina 1993: 127).

    1.5. Input processing

    The processing of the input generally can be described in outline as a sequential line (Groome 1999: 111):

    Input --à Structural processing à Acoustic processing àSemantic processing


    This is a highly simplified picture of course and as such is often called into question as inadequate.  Processing is also seen in other models as a parallel process, called elaborative encoding (Craik and Tulving 1975):


      . Structural processing
    INPUT . Acoustic processing
      . Semantic processing

    This perception of information processing is the basis for parallel processing (parallel distributed processing - PDP), which  assumes that it is not serial but that multiple operations in our brain occur simultaneously and create a network.

    No matter which model we adapt, it was demonstrated that the way processing occurs results from the so-called orienting tasks given to the learners, which determine the way processing happens. Orienting tasks are defined as instructions given to the learners (ibid. 112). They are either structural, acoustic or semantic. It was shown that the semantic tasks (listening for the content) resulted in a greater depth of processing than in other types of tasks. In the case of lecture note-taking, the semantic orientation is obvious. Prominence of focus on form (language) may greatly inhibit comprehension and note-taking itself.

    The orienting tasks will affect another variable basic to input processing, i.e. attention, resulting in attentional processing and automatic processing. Attentional  processing is understood as:

    (…) processing that is non-obligatory, generally uses working memory space, is prone to dual-interference, relatively slow, and may be accessible to consciousness (Harley 2001: 418).

    As such, it will need effort and time, and also being limited by STM capacity, it will require data manipulation (elaborative rehearsal) to transfer spoken data into LTM (long term memory). In the context of lecture note-taking, dual interference understood as the different modalities involved in language processing - input (auditory modality) versus written output (motor modality) - may be seen as the major factor influencing the way processing occurs, depending on duration  and pace, adaptation strategies and content, that is, richness of propositions. (Hazeltine et al. 2006).

    Automatic processing on the other hand is seen as:

    (…) processing that is unconscious, fast, obligatory, facilitatory, does not involve working memory space, and is generally not susceptible to dual-task interference
    (ibid: 418).

    In the context of note-taking automatic processing may result in the exact reproduction of aural input. To be effective , i.e. to record as much data as is necessary for the full coverage of lecture content and to focus on the meaning itself,  the processing of words, formulaic expressions and generally restricted language chunks is necessary, apart from anticipation skills relating to the structural characteristics of language.  In a given topic, automatic processing will be encouraged by knowledge of topic-specific discourse.

    Segalowitz (2000) talks of the need to develop mapping repetitions of ready-made chunks, which will contribute to the development of automaticity of processing. As a consequence, it will be a time-saving device to allow for monitoring and concentration on the meaning. Skehan (1998) emphasizes that communication (here between the speaker and receiver: aural input and written output) results from  dual encoding which is based on the collaboration between “a rule-based system” (structure and rules) and “a memory-based system” (restricted phrases, chunks, formulaic speech).

    It is not only the mode of delivery in terms of its linguistic characteristics and instruction (type of orienting goal) that will affect a listener (here, a student in a lecture room) in processing the text. A lecturer usually uses the style of lecturing that fits his/her way of thinking: linear versus global. We all know from our own experience as lecturers, but also as learners, that certain types of input delivery suit us more than others. This is determined by our brain processing specificities, resulting from the hemispheric dominance. We may prefer logical and sequential, coherently argumented discourse (left-hemisphere dominance) to interactive, problem-solving and intuitive delivery (right hemisphere dominance), or vice versa,  which is a well-known fact used in communication studies and learner training.


    2. Study description

    2.1. Research focus and context of data collection

    As stated in the abstract and introduction, it is believed that note-taking illustrates different cognitive styles of processing data on the level of content and form, as exemplified by different ways of encoding.  It also shows the ways in which data is stored in the STM (short term memory). It could be hypothesized that note-taking being a conscious process (that is, selected by individual subjects to facilitate retrieval) can also demonstrate how information and language are retrieved from the LTM (long term memory).

    In the case of this study, the major interest lies in observing how information in language other than the subjects’ L1 (i.e. L2- English) is processed and encoded as reflected in a written text (their notes). So the major focus of this study is on the following:

    This data is complemented by reflective comments made by the subjects on:

    The subjects involved in this preliminary study were the students of English in their final year studying to receive a B.A. as qualified teachers of English. They were about to take an examination  in TEFL, so consequently they were quite motivated instrumentally to learn, and especially given that the examination preparation involved mainly their lecture notes taken during the two-semester course. They were also quite motivated to attend the lectures as most of them already taught English, mostly in a form of one-to-one tuition or EFL courses. The lectures allowed them to expand their knowledge and also to ask questions relevant to their own teaching problems. They also believed that this methodology course was useful for them as instruction on how to learn foreign languages.

    2.2. Research tools

    2.2.1. Corpus (lecture notes) analysis

    As this project represents work in progress, the corpus used for the present analysis is not complete and for the time being, it consists of 13 sets of lecture notes of the students who volunteered to share their notes and to take part in the preliminary stage of the study. However, the students were not notified before the lecture that they would be asked to contribute to this study. It could therefore be assumed that they did not alter their behaviour in terms of how they made their notes and used their usual strategies.

    The notes were recorded during an obligatory lecture on TEFL, delivered in an oral form in English (so a FL) to a group of students who are to qualify as professional teachers of English as a foreign language. It is a two-semester course consisting of lectures and practical classes. The main objective of the lecture is to introduce future teachers to the main concepts in FL teaching and learning and also to comment briefly on their implications for classroom practice. The lecture takes the form of a presentation by the teacher in a so-called gapped format, i.e., it is an  interactive  session in which the students are invited to ask questions and make  comments. The students are also asked questions to share their reflections and experience relating to teaching and learning in the context of the discussed topic area.

    The corpus used for these analyses comes from a lecture on learner autonomy, focusing on:

    2.2.2. Awareness of note-taking procedures

    Data collection on the subjects’ awareness consisted of three stages. At the first stage after the subjects’ notes had already been collected, the whole group of fifty students in total was asked to reflect upon the process of note-taking by constructing the main questions for a hypothetical questionnaire on “How to make notes during a lecture?”. The purpose of this reflection session was to determine what the subjects’ awareness was in relation to this skill. The groups were constrained by a time limit so that the questions constructed would be the first and the major aspects that occurred to the subjects without any deeper thinking. It took the form of a brainstorming task.

    At the second stage the subjects completed a detailed questionnaire prepared by the researcher, which allowed them to comment fully on the following aspects of the note-taking process:

    At stage three, also in the same survey questionnaire, the subjects commented on the characteristics of good notes and evaluated their skills in terms of these different characteristics referring to both the content and the form of their notes.

    2.3.  Procedures

    The preliminary study carried out can be presented in a tabular form (Table 1):





      Collection of lecture notes

      Analysis of the corpus


      Brainstorming session

      Subjects’ verbalized awareness of the process in the form of the major questions to be asked


      Questionnaire on note-taking (1)

      Description of students’ own experiences of note-taking


      Questionnaire on note-taking (2)

      Self-evaluation of one’s skill in recording notes

    Table 1:  Stages of the study


    3.  Data presentation and analysis

    3.1. Introduction

    There are several different contexts in which note-taking has become an important aspect of learning. Here the corpus comes from a lecture-type learning setting. It may be assumed that at the tertiary level of education this is still an important mode of delivery, although it often has been observed that lecture forms have become more flexible, more interactive and often leave more autonomy of thinking to the student audiences. At the same time it still holds that:

    In the context of this study, the lectures in TEFL aimed at introducing the basic concepts in the field, explain them and apply them to specific teaching/learning contexts which constitute a later stage in their development as teachers of EFL.

    3.2. “How to take lecture notes” (a brainstorming session)

    A brainstorming session was organized after the lecture in order to answer the question to what extent the students are aware of  what is involved in the process of making notes from  aural input. The subjects were put in the situation of researchers who were to find out as much as they could about the issue. The task was performed in a clearly defined period of time (20 minutes) to elicit the informants’ views on the most important aspects of a note-taking process.

    The questions different groups came up with overlapped and related to:

    Looking at the proportions of the questions which relate to either content or form, it seems that the students focused much more on the form of note-taking than on content-selection criteria. Also the question of comprehension itself was not raised although the lecture was delivered in a FL, which could have possibly resulted in communication breakdowns, especially at the level of lexis, with new concepts introduced and register-specific terminology used. Additionally, what was clearly missing from the “hypothetical questionnaire” were questions of an evaluative nature: what makes good notes and how good one is at note-taking. In other words, what was not considered significant was any awareness of the need to develop listening skills (those of processing aural input) to become an effective and efficient note-taker.

    3.3. Survey (a learner questionnaire)

    3.3.1. Response data

    Table 2 presents the responses to the individual questions on criteria of content selection used, techniques used to code information, language(s) used, structure of the notes in terms of  page layout, factors facilitating and interfering with note-taking, and the need for assistance during the process.


    Question focus< Responses
    (frequency hierarchy)
    a. Criteria of content selection Highlighted by the teacher,
    Importance for my exams
    Level of interest and attractivenees
    As much as I can do, no criteria
    Depends on the speed
    New things
    Definitions, facts and key words
    b. Techniques of note-taking Structuring the text into paragraphs
    Bullet and hyphenated points
    A lot of abbreviations (my own)
    Using tables and figures
    c. Language (s) used> Language used by the teacher
    The whole sentences
    Simplified language
    Chaotic, no grammar, poor structure of sentences
    Some amount of code switching into Polish
    d. Structure of the notes No special structure
    In points, using capital letters
    As they come, scattered
    Leave space on the margins to add information
    e. Factors facilitating note-taking< Visual elements – key words on the blackboard
    Speed of delivery
    Body language
    Not too much information
    f. Factors impeding note-taking Group interference (noise)
    Pace and length of the lecture
    No interest and teachers’  voice and negative attitude
    No hand-outs
    g. Need for assistance 50%/50%
    Teacher assistance:
    Content questions: 68% (unclear information, not complete notes)
    Form (language); 32% (new words)
    Peer assistance (80%): content questions
    Other (80%): language sources (dictionaries)

    Table 2: Questionnaire responses (number of respondents - 50)

     3.3.2. Discussion and comments

     Evaluating the responses, we can conclude that the group of informants exhibited a poor level of awareness of the processes involved in note-taking, or at least showed little awareness of appropriate strategies to produce good notes.  In relation to criteria of content selection, it can be observed that a high degree of lecturer dependence and form-focus is being exhibited, not so much attention given to content selection. In terms of techniques used, visuality is rightly emphasized; however, the emphasis was seldom put on the idiosyncratic character of individual coding systems. Also the language in which notes are most frequently written is directly taken from the lecturer in the form of complete sentences. Only occasionally is simplification mentioned.

    As far as the structure of notes is concerned, the informants admit that often they are scattered and chaotic, the only organizational principle of the text being division into paragraphs, sometimes “crammed” with information, sometimes with gapped spaces (missing information).

    The factors seen as facilitating note-taking are those which relate to transfer of information from STM to LTM,  that is to say visual aids such as hand-outs, words on the blackboard and non-verbal clues, such as the lecturer’s body language, which facilitate comprehension. On the other hand, the factors impeding note-taking highlight the lecturer’s mode of delivery, and so-called “presence”: lack of enthusiasm or interest and inappropriate use of voice. Also external factors (noise in the room) are seen as negative. Again each of these factors is not learner/listener-dependent but teacher and context-generated. 

    The informants are not unanimous in expressing their need for assistance when taking notes (50% versus 50%), so this need clearly exists: the lecturer-dependence relates mostly to questions being asked about the content. Peer assistance is sought in cases when not able to follow the lecture, the students tend to ask for completion of the lecturer’s sentences.

    The students also commented on editing their notes by saying that they do not often do it and then only at the stage of preparation for tests: often: 19%, sometimes: 37%, seldom 24% and never 20%. However, editing means for the 90% of the sample mainly highlighting and correcting language, in the majority of cases, it does not mean rewriting chunks of text. Any substantial editing is done at the stage of preparation for the test/examination, and not directly after the lecture. This probably means that some parts of important data will go missing and will never be transferred to LTM, and consequently may go unlearnt.

    What is interesting is again the focus on form rather than content, which is expressed by the editing process at the level of language correctness of the text produced. Also the visual aspect comes to the fore in the process of editing notes, which is a device facilitating memorization and organization of information for the purposes of easy access for retrieval purposes.

    Summarizing, the data collected in the questionnaire pictures the respondents as quite passive and almost fully dependent on the lecturer both in terms of form and content. Consequently, in the great majority of cases, the students do not seem to create their own encoding systems. As a result, note-taking does not seem to be a very effective learning strategy in the case of this group.  This cannot be ascribed to attitudinal variables, as mentioned before, since these students are quite motivated. So it would appear that this kind of approach derives from a certain degree of unawareness of effective note-taking strategies and language processing principles. 

    3.4. Self-evaluation reflection

    The different aspects of note-taking that the subjects highlighted in their “hypothetical questionnaires” also found a reflection in the evaluative part of the survey they completed themselves. When asked about the features of good notes, the major answers presented in a hierarchy of importance, were:

    The major concern, as expressed by the responses to the question on the characteristics of good notes, once again shows the dominance of form over content. It seems then that the subjects believe that it is not comprehension problems that will mostly inhibit the effectiveness of their note-taking, but form-related aspects. Also, surprisingly the completeness of information/data recorded is not seen as a significant criterion of good notes.

    The subjects evaluate their own skills at note-taking as good or very good, except for:

    It may be assumed that the limitations of the notes specified above result from mode of delivery (e.g. pace of delivery, sloppy language of a lecturer, etc.). They may also signify that the listening skills of the students are not very high. The criteria of effective listening contributing to comprehension and the ability to process notes in an on-line fashion that were discussed earlier (after Wong 2000) do not seem to feature in the comments made in the questionnaire. The former features, among others, relate to attention, concentration, tuning in and interest, paraphrasing, etc.

    Very few additional comments (28%) were made by the students; however those that can be quoted here exemplify the problems involved and discussed earlier:

    1. lack of an individual style in note taking :
    2. effects of dual coding interference and the need for visual facilitation:
    3. the need for attentional processing:
      • The learner  needs to be really focused on what the lecturer says; if a learner is distracted even for a moment it is not easy to follow the content.
    4. mode of delivery:
      •  Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I note at home so not to miss the lecture. Some lecturers forget that it is the main concern of students during lectures and speak quickly and don’t care.
      •  All lecturers should work on good intonation and pronunciation in order to be clearly understood. Sometimes the pace of lectures should be controlled (not all the students write at the same speed)
    5. form focus:
      • Sometimes a Polish counterpart could be given by a teacher (to put it down in the notes)
      • It is helpful if the lecturer writes down some problematic words on the blackboard.
      • Problems may appear with spelling of foreign names and new words.

    Problems in note-taking derive from both content and form difficulties a listener (and simultaneously a note-taker) is confronted with at the moment of exposure and immediate encoding:

    1. Unfamiliarity of material
    2. Lack of new ideas or too strict a following of the textbook in content
    3. Pace of speech and inability to follow
    4. “Wandering mind”- inability to concentrate because of the style of delivery (too slow, uninteresting)
    5. Digressions made by the lecturer (“Sidetracking”)
    6. Language problems (spelling, unknown words, etc; too much focus on language correctness)

    Guidelines to solve these difficulties and overcome obstacles in effective listening and note-taking are quite simple:

    1. Become familiar with the material before the lecture
    2. To help you “keep up”, leave a gap and continue, or shift to paragraph form
    3. Use active listening techniques when the rate of speech is too slow (question,  summarize, anticipate)
    4. Take notes on “sidetracking”
    5. Spell as it sounds and check the spelling later
    6. Use focused listening techniques to combat inattentiveness and poor concentration (set goals to use specific strategies)
    7. Work to better organize your notes immediately after the lecture
    8. Highlight and take notes in the book instead of on paper when the lecture follows the book (Wong 200: 192).

    These guidelines reflect the ways in which effective language processing occurs and their use in taking notes, reflects the note-takers’ degree of awareness of this process and a conscious selection of the most appropriate strategies.

    3.5.   Corpus data: note-taking as a process

    3.5.1. Effective listening in note-taking

    As stated earlier, it is effective and efficient listening that is the basic skill for input comprehension to occur. The conditions for effective listening have already been briefly outlined. Now, I would like to comment on how the sample corpus of texts reflects effective listening skills and in fact language processing. Wong (2000: 186-187) describes strategies characteristic of good listeners (Table 3)




    Eliminating distractors
    1. external (e.g. too far way from the   speaker
    2. nternal (e.g. attitude or mood)
    Paying attention to levels of information
    1. wholisitc perception of the text
    2. selecting the main points
    3. seeing the connections between the main points
    4. establishing the hierarchy of levels of information
    Staying tuned in
    1. continuity of  processing data (not switching off in the case of difficulty or boredom)
    Monitoring one’s emotional response
    1. affective response (especially a negative one) may disturb the process of data processing and comprehension
    2. recording your emotions (e.g. a question to be asked later on)
    Creating an interest
    1. importance of the initial attitude to the lecture, lecturer and the content
    2. relating the interest (or lack of it) to your individual goals (e.g. a test)
    3. formulating questions to “generate your curiosity”
    Asking questions
    1. asking questions for clarification or additional information
    2. recording questions in the notes taken for later use
    Being non-judgemental
    1. focusing on the content of the lecture
    2. eliminating too much attention paid to the external factors that may distract (e.g. the lecturer himself/herself)
    Posturing and positioning oneself for listening
    1. a physical position of the body will affect the ability to  listen
    2.  (e.g. concentration, ease of breathing)
    3. expressing an attitude to the lecture (e.g. slumped down – manifestation of lack of interest
    4. physical distance from the speaker (e.g. too close – difficulty of concentrating, or too far – inability to hear)
    Visualizing the topic and content
    1. another channel to record information and later on recall it effectively
    2. ”make a movie in your mind”
    Paraphrasing the speaker
    1. paraphrasing helps understanding
    2. it is a time-saving device (a shorter text, the main points)
    Paying attention to non-verbal clues and body language
    1. gestures and facial expressions add to the communicative value of the verbal message
    2. non-verbals serve the purpose of highlighting the main points and ideas
    3. individual speakers have their coded system of non-verbal signals, becoming aware of it will facilitate  comprehension
    Enrolling in a listening class

    Developing listening skills can be monitored by developing one’s auditory memory through training (if available) or by self-practice

    Table 3. Strategies of an effective listener (adapted from Wong 2000: 186-187)

    These strategies reflect the variables discussed earlier, those of different types of knowledge involved in listening, affectivity (attitude, interest), individually dominant perceptual styles, non-verbal clues etc. To what extent are they observable in these learners’ recorded lecture notes?

    Not all the characteristics can be commented upon on the basis of the texts themselves, so only selected ones are highlighted. The others (interest, emotional response, asking questions and non-verbal clues) were already discussed in questionnaires 1 and 2. At this stage of my study, I will only look at the following:

    1. Paying attention to levels of information:
      1. there is no holistic perception of the text, as exemplified in the selection of major versus minor points
      2. the main points are selected but not structured, and there is no clear hierarchy of information established
      3. no connections are shown (no coherence in presentation)
      4. no hierarchical value of data established
    2. Visualizing the topic and content:
      1. no non-verbal means used to record information (no pictorial symbols or colours used)
    3. Paraphrasing the speaker:
      1. complete thoughts in the lecturer’s own wording are recorded, resulting in missed content
      2. infrequent attempts to shorten the sentences, only observed in the headings.

    To sum up, the notes seem to be mostly a passive reproduction of the lecture, both at the level of content and linguistic expression. No attempts are observed at paraphrasing the content as a strategy saving time and making more comprehensive notes possible. Consequently, what results are content gaps. Also no abbreviations of words or phrases are used. When comparing individual texts of different students, there seems to be very little difference in their content and form, which makes them more uniform than idiosyncratic. For the purposes of retrieving information for examination revision, the notes do not allow for much editing or including additional information, as the page organization (layout) is often crammed, with no margins available for extra comments. Also resources (books and articles quoted in the lecture) are not clearly cited in the text. They similarly do not mark the handouts complementing the lecture in question. There seems to be an excessive focus on form, as seen in the need for language correctness, replicating the emphasis in the students’ comments in the questionnaire. There are only occasional slips into L1 or misspelt words. And contrary to expectations, the notes are perfectly legible.

    In conclusion, the ollowing can be generally observed throughout the sample corpus:

    3.5.2. The way forward: strategies for recording information

    Following the Twelve Strategy Framework (Table 3), Wong (2000: 188)) formulates the principles of note-taking techniques, which follow as a result from the way we process data:

    1. Paraphrase the speaker by shortening and rewording:
      depth of processing (recreation of information, idiosyncratic language)
    2. Use abbreviations to reduce the amount of writing:
      helps limited  memory capacity and eliminates dual task interference
    3. Create a set of common symbols:
      a time saving device, a pace of coding that allows us to follow the input more precisely
    4. Use a modified form of printing/writing:
      visual impact organizes and helps the retrieval of information
    5. Practice often:
      frequency of task performance creates more automatic responses in processing
    6. Keep writing when the information is difficult or confusing:
      a flow of ideas can be followed and encoded, even if not totally understood at the moment of  processing (automatic coding)

    At the practical level of note-taking Wong (2000: 190) comes up with a set of guidelines:

    1. Listen for important details (dates, names, facts and statistics).
    2. Listen for ordinals (number words).
    3. Listen for key words that signal headings and main points.
    4. Listen for terminology and definitions.
    5. Listen for examples.
    6. Use verbal and non verbal clues as signals.

    Apart from the strategies which work for note-taking, the way the notes are structured will also affect their effectiveness in terms of ease of retrieval of information and ease of following and memorizing content. The emphasis here is on visual perception as a dominant one and also on an analytical approach to input. The major organizing devices then in facilitating language processing are:

    1. Visual note-taking devices such as symbolic/outline pictures and colours to facilitate sensory memory
    2. Visual mappings to show connections between the main propositions
    3. Time lines to demonstrate the sequential linkages between the data
    4. Comparison charts to highlight similarities and differences
    5. Hierarchies of data to establish the importance of selected information chunks visually


    4.  Note-talking as evidence of language processing: concluding remarks

    Studying note-taking as the main strategy used in a learning context may allow us to make assumptions about the ways learners process a foreign language, as exemplified by how they select, segment and record information. Consequently, this understanding will contribute to teaching and learning effectiveness. This study was intended to demonstrate the above. However, it has proved difficult to comment on individual ways of processing data, as the sample of texts obtained seems to be unexpectedly uniform and essentially reproductive in nature both in terms of content and form. It is obvious in this context that there is a definite need to introduce note-taking as an important study skill, for what has emerged  is that these skills are barely developed in the subjects in this study. To be able to continue further research on language processing, more effort has to go into teaching note-taking skills and more awareness needs to be acquired about their deployment by the students..  


    2.7. Neue Entwicklungen in der Psycholinguistik / New Developments in Psycholinguistics

    Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections


    For quotation purposes:
    Danuta Gabryś-Barker: Note-taking as evidence of language processing - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW: http://www.inst.at/trans/17Nr/2-7/2-7_gabrys-barker.htm

    Webmeister: Gerald Mach     last change: 2010-02-07