Note Taking in English – PART 2 of 7: Verbal Cues

In my last post I went over what tools you should use when taking lecture notes. Hopefully, you learned that it’s not ideal to write down everything you hear because you’ll be too focused on the task of writing instead of thinking about the information you’re listening to. So then, how do you decide what’s important to write and what you should not write?

Well, when you take notes, you’re basically writing a summary, and a summary includes only the main ideas plus any supportive ideas or examples, if necessary. Lucky for you, when your instructors give lectures, they often give you what’s called lecture cues.

Lecture cues are basically hints telling you to pay attention (or not) to what follows. Cues can tell you what important ideas are going to be discussed and in what order they will be presented. They could tell you that you’re going to listen to a comparison between key ideas or a deeper explanation of a topic. They could also tell you when the topic is going to change. If you can identify words and phrases that are used as cues, you’ll be better able to follow and predict the content of a lecture. And if you can do this, you’ll be prepared to listen well and be better able to decide what is important to write.

Let me give you some examples of lecture cues, which I can best explain by categorizing them into four types: organization cues, information cues, relation cues, and discourse cues. Let’s have a look at these in order.

Organization Cues

Organization cues are useful for following the structure of a lecture, which include hints about the topic, structure, transitions, and conclusion.

TOPIC CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to tell you the topic. Examples:

  • Today we’re going to be discussing…
  • This afternoon, I’ll be talking about…
  • This morning, I’d like to speak on…
  • Let’s look at…
  • Why don’t we focus on…
  • It’s important that we focus on…

STRUCTURE CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to tell you main parts of the content and their order in the lecture. Examples:

  • There are two main points I’d like to discuss…
  • I’m going to talk about three things…
  • There are four areas I want to focus on today…
  • First, I’ll talk about …, then we’ll discuss…
  • Last class we covered… and this week we’ll focus on…
  • Let’s move on to talk about…
  • I’ve spoken about…, but what about …?

TRANSITION CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to move from one idea to the next. Here are some examples:

  • OK, so…
  • Right…
  • Well…
  • Now…
  • Let’s turn/ move on to…
  • So, what does this mean?
  • What are the reasons for this?
  • What might we infer from this? (meaning what can we understand as a result of this?)
  • This brings me to my next point…
  • It’s time to move onto the second half of my talk, which is about…

CONCLUSION CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to summarize what was said. Some examples are:

  • Today we’ve discussed…
  • To recap,…
  • To sum up,…
  • To summarize,…
  • In summary,…
  • To conclude,…
  • In conclusion,…
  • In summary,…
  • What have we learned? Well…
  • Let’s finish this by reminding ourselves…

Information Cues

After organization cues, we have information cues. Information cues are used to tell the listener when the lecturer is presenting key information. They can be used to provide definitions, examples, implications (or results), opinions, and sources for evidence (meaning proof):

DEFINITION CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to explain what words or concepts mean. Some examples:

  • … is…
  • …means…
  • The term for this is…
  • What this means is…
  • What… means is…
  • This is what some call…
  • This is called…, and this refers to…

EXAMPLE CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to offer, no surprise – examples.

  • …, such as…
  • For instance,…
  • To illustrate,…
  • For examples,…
  • To give an example of this,…
  • An illustration of this is…
  • One example of this is…
  • One way of showing this is…
  • Let me give you an example of this.

IMPLICATION CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to give opinions (that are based on inferences). Examples:

  • This suggests (that)…
  • This demonstrates (that)…
  • This indicates (that)…
  • This shows (that)…
  • This leads us to believe (that)…
  • What we can infer from this is (that)…
  • What does this imply? Well,…

SOURCE CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to support or exemplify main ideas and claims.

  • According to (source),…
  • In the words of (source),…
  • (source) states, and I quote, “…”
  • (source) argues/ claims/ states (that)…
  • In this (source), it is suggested that…

Relation Cues

We’ve covered organization and information cues, so number three is relation cues. Relation cues are used to show relations between concepts. These are used to show cause and effect as well as compare and contrast relations.

CAUSE CUES

Examples include:

  • This is caused by…
  • This is the result of…
  • This is an outcome of…
  • The reason for this is…
  • What’s the cause of this? Well,..

EFFECT CUES

Examples are:

  • As a result,…
  • This leads to,…
  • Consequently,…
  • An effect of this is…
  • Because of (cause),…

COMPARE CUES

Examples include:

  • Likewise,…
  • Similarly,…
  • Both… and…
  • Just like…, …
  • As with,…, …
  • …is the same as…

CONTRAST CUES

Examples are:

  • However,…
  • Unlike…, ….
  • In contrast,…
  • On the other hand,…
  • Although…, ….
  • On the contrary,…

Discourse Marking Cues

The fourth type of lecture cue is discourse markers. Discourse marking cues are used to emphasize, to restate (or rephrase or say again), or to show that the lecturer is leaving the topic a little bit.

EMPHASIS OR RESTATEMENT CUES

  • In fact,…
  • Indeed,…
  • Actually,…
  • Importantly,…
  • It’s worth noting that…
  • It’s important to know that…
  • Another way of saying this is…
  • In other words,…
  • In a nutshell,…

FORAY CUES

A lecturer uses these cues to show that the lecturer going away from the main point. You might choose not to take notes after hearing these cues.

  • On another note,…
  • Let me tell you a story…
  • A similar story was with…
  • This actually reminds me of…
  • …,but that’s not so important.
  • That reminds me of the case about…

I’ve talked about four types of verbal cues in this post – organization cues, information cues, relation cues, and discourse-marking cues. All of these cues tell you when it’s important to take notes. That was a lot of information, so I recommend gradually trying to learn these verbal cues. The next post will continue with lecture cues, but this time, of the non-verbal variety!

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