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Good Lecture Notes

Over the past three years, I’ve attended a lot of lectures, given by a large number of lecturers from several departments.

Generally, these have been courses for scientists and engineers, with fairly complete handouts.

However, there are certain desiderata that are not always met, and so are worth listing explicitly. Ideally, all hand-outs should: - Include your email address, so that you can be sent corrections or suggestions. - Include suggestions of appropriate readings on the cover-page. - Include page numbers on every page. - State the source of all figures (if these mostly come from one source, include a comment like ‘Figures are from Molecular Biology of the Cell/Introduction to Neural Science/etc. unless otherwise noted’) - Not include every intermediate state of a powerpoint transition unless this is necessary for clarification, or to provide space for annotations

If possible, handouts should be hole-punched, so they can be immediately filed after the lecture, rather than being carried loose.

Lecture notes should be given out at the start of a lecture. Lecture notes help the audience to think about what is being said, by removing the need to frantically transcribe everything; this is not possible if they are withheld until after the lecture.

Some lecture notes include gaps to be filled in during lectures. This strategy might help to discouraging students from skipping lectures, or falling asleep during them. On the other hand, such students might just copy from their friends’ notes later. When it comes to revision it is certainly reassuring to have a set of notes which are known to be complete, legible, and free from transcription errors.

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