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Using tables, or 'tabular notetaking', is a good technique if you need to summarise information that you want to compare, such as a debate with differing viewpoints. Summarising the points in a table helps you to evaluate them, improving your understanding of a topic and helping you prepare for an essay or exam.

Tabular notes can be useful in social learning, in tutorials, student support groups or more informal contexts - you may find it interesting and thought-provoking to work with other students to create a table comparing views on a topic.

Do bear in mind that tabular notes, like other forms of notetaking, can be adapted to your personal style. The two examples shown below are by no means definitive. So be creative - try experimenting with headings and categories. In relation to the examples given you might also consider, for example, how different approaches relate to the broader themes of the module, or how different policies have been interpreted or criticised by competing theorists.

Example 1 Tabular notes about crime

The table consists of four columns and four rows. The student has used the table to compare the key researchers, areas of expertise, causes of crime and evidence supporting the research.

Hand-written notes about three structural explanations of crime

Table based on Explaining Crime (2004) DD100 Introductory Workbook by Kelly, B., Mooney, G., Fergusson, R. and Goldblatt, D.

Example 2 Tabular notes on the welfare state

The table consists of four columns and four rows. The student has used the table to compare the dominant political ideology, provision, rationale and management style.

Hand-written notes on welfare state

Table based on Ordering Lives: Family Work and Welfare (2004) DD100 Book 3 by Hughes, G. and Fergusson, R.

You could also use a table to help decide between methods of taking notes.

Using tables