By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
This article teaches you how to take notes from a video. There are different scenarios where you will need to take notes from a video, especially for online courses. The following best practices apply to students in middle school, high school, college, and beyond.
How to take notes from a video
Taking notes from a video is similar in some ways to taking notes from a textbook, but there are differences as well. here are the best strategies for taking notes from a textbookif that’s what you’re looking for.
I have organized this article into three categories for ease of navigation. All three categories are important:
- Before taking notes from a video: pre-planning notes (3 tips)
- Take notes while watching the video (13 tips)
- How to take notes from a video – to the next level (3 tips)
Before taking notes from a video: pre-planning notes (3 tips)
Taking notes from videos requires a little advance planning. You may have already understood tips #1 and #2, but if you haven’t, take the time to do so now.
1. Choose your location.
Where will you take and store your notes? You basically have three choices:
- Paper (notebook)
- Digital notes in Google Docs or Word
- Digital notes that you write by hand with a stylus or Apple Pencil
There are pros and cons to each of the above. I always suggest that students take paper notes (option 1) or handwritten digital notes (option 3). I understand that for many, typed notes are faster. But speed isn’t the goal here: understanding is.
2. Choose your note-taking format.
There are three main note-taking formats. They apply whether taking notes from a video, textbook, novel, slideshow, or lecture. They are:
- Two-column notes
- The outline method
- Notes from Cornell
I explain each of the formats here, as well as why I generally recommend the two-column and outline methods over Cornell Notes. However, to take notes from a video, I suggest the outline method.
3. Preview the video.
Just as you would skim through a chapter of a textbook before taking notes on it (to see its length, structure, etc.), you should do the same for video notes. This step could be as minimal as checking the length of the video to see how many notes you’ll need to take.
Take notes while watching the video (13 tips)
The following tips are why you came to this blog. Some of these strategies are best practices for taking notes on all kinds (not just from videos), like tips 6-10. Others are specific to video.
1. Use closed captions or subtitles if available.
If the video is hosted on YouTube, it will likely have an option to enable closed captioning or subtitles. Reading the words at the bottom of the screen can increase your engagement and understanding. (There is a difference between the two: closed captioning is intended for people who are deaf or hard of hearing because it annotates background sounds, music and non-verbal communication for the viewer. Closed captioning is intended for people who can hear but also want to read the words.)
2. Find a transcript of the video.
Not all videos have transcripts, but some educational videos do. A transcript is different from subtitles. You can use a transcript to read the words from the video at your own pace. You can also print the transcript, then highlight and annotate it as part of your note-taking strategy. (Yes, people do that.)
3. Slow down video playback speed.
If necessary, slow down the video playback speed to 0.75.
4. Pause to take notes.
Can’t write as fast as video playback? Pause it as often as necessary to take your notes.
5. Rewind when something is unclear.
I know that trick sounds so obvious. But I am shocked at how few of my students do this. If anything is unclear, rewind the video and play it again. Still unclear? Rewind and play it again. You can’t take notes on something you don’t understand, so make sure you understand what you hear.
6. Create titles and subtitles to match the topics of the video.
If you use the outline method, which I suggest you do, you will create headings and subheadings, with bulleted details below each. Try to create titles and subtitles based on the key topics of the video. You may not succeed every time, but do your best. If you realize later that you should have created a new subtitle, go back and correct your notes after the video.
7. Use a bullet point for each key detail.
When you take notes in an outline format, each detail has its own bullet point. Vocabulary words, key people, key dates, etc. also have their own chip.
8. Avoid complex and complete sentences.
You take notes, you don’t write a novel. Short sentences, fragments and abbreviations are sufficient.
9. Use your own language.
You should always, still take notes using your own language and your own words. In other words, avoid using the exact words of the author or speaker. When we use our own expressions and formulations, we learn information better.
10. Capture key terms, people, dates, concepts and events.
You should take note whenever the video emphasizes key words, people, concepts, etc. This important information is often displayed as text on the screen in addition to being spoken in audio. Underline or bold these terms to make them stand out in your notes.
11. Draw simple diagrams from the video.
If there are any important charts or graphs, pause the video and do your best to recreate them in your notes. If you take digital notes, take a screenshot of the video and insert the images into your notes.
12. Pay attention to cues like tone and background music.
One of the benefits of taking notes from a video instead of a textbook is that you have more “cues” that tell you when something is important. Pay attention to the tone of the speaker’s voice, background music (intense or loud music indicates important information), and sound effects.
13. Use video timestamps (chapters) to guide your notes.
Some videos have timestamps clearly marked on the progress bar that indicate the “chapters” of the video. Not all videos have timestamps, but if they do, use them to help organize your notes. You would use timestamped chapter headings as the main headings in your outline and include key details as bullet points below.
How to take notes from a video – to the next level (3 tips)
If you are taking video notes for a simple assignment and the information is super basic, then the strategies I explain in the previous section suffice. However, if the video content is complex and your total understanding hardware is needed, then the following strategies are for you.
1. Review your notes.
When the video is over, review your notes and look for the items in the list below:
- Missing information
- Bullets under the wrong subtitle
- Bullets that should be their own subtitle
- Areas that require further explanation
- Information that could be presented better (such as timelines, pie charts, etc.)
- Key terms that need to be underlined or accentuated
- Information you don’t understand, even if you wrote it down
- Details that you now realize are unimportant
- Links between different parts of your notes (link them together)
2. Rewrite or retype your notes.
If after going through the above (reviewing your notes) your notes are messy, disorganized, and difficult to read or follow, rewrite or retype them. You might consider skipping this step, but if the goal is to understand your notes and video content, so this step is crucial. Rewriting your notes – with all the revisions you’ve made – not only leaves you with outstanding grades, but it increases your understanding of the material.
3. Summarize the video.
The ultimate test of comprehension is the summary. After taking and reviewing your notes, write a summary of the video. Depending on the length of the video, the summary can contain from 3 to 7 sentences. If you’re having trouble writing a summary, it means one of two things: 1) you don’t fully understand the video content, or 2) you don’t have the proper summarizing skills. (Here’s how to write an abstract.)
If you’re looking for other note-taking resources, these might be helpful: