Listening Comprehension and Note-Taking

Understanding the structure of spoken texts

Introduction

Several studies (e.g. Chaudron & Richards, 1986; DeCarrico & Nattinger, 1988) have suggested that explicit signals of text structure are important in lecture comprehension. Listening for these signals can therefore help you understand the lecture.

Signals

The tables below show some of the most common signals used in lectures to indicate structure (Leech & Svartvik, 1975). Listen for them in your lectures.

  1. Introducing
  2. Giving background information
  3. Defining
  4. Enumerating/Listing
  5. Giving examples
  6. Showing importance/Emphasising
  7. Clarifying/Explaining/Putting it in other words
  8. Moving on/Changing direction
  9. Giving further information
  10. Giving contrasting information
  11. Classifying
  12. Digressing
  13. Referring to visuals
  14. Concluding

1. Introducing

At the beginning of a lecture, or a section of a lecture, the lecturer will give you some idea about the structure of the lecture. Listen for these signals as it will help you understand what the lecturer is saying.

What I intend to say is
What I'd like to do is to discuss
What I intend to do is to explain
In my talk today,
My topic today is
Today, I'm going to talk about
I'm going to talk to you about
My colleagues and I are going to give a short presentation on
Today I want to consider
In this talk, I would like to concentrate on
The subject of this talk is
The purpose of this talk is to
This talk is designed to

   .   

Listen to example:

2. Giving background information

Before the new information is given, the lecturer will often summarise what you are expected to know about the subject to be covered. This could refer back to a previous lecture or to some background reading you should have done.

As we know
As we have already seen
As we have all read
It's clear that
It goes without saying
We all understand
It is understood
You'll remember

   .   

Listen to example:


3. Defining

In a lecture, it is often necessary to define the terms that will be used. This is important as familiar words can have specific meanings in different subjects.

X

is
is called
is known as
may be defined as
is a type of Y that/which

   .   

By X, I mean

This term is used generally to mean
In the field of Y, the term refers to

A type of Y which . is X.

Listen to example:

4. Enumerating/Listing

The lecturer will often be explicit about the order in which new points will be mentioned. To make the order clear we use various links and connectives.

Firstly
Secondly
Next
Then
Thirdly
Lastly
Finally

   .   

First of all
In the first place
For one thing
To begin with
In the second place
For another thing

The

first
second
next
last

point I'd like to make is

Listen to example:

5. Giving examples

In lectures, it is common to make generalisations. These generalisations are often supported with examples. These signals can help you to understand which generalisations the examples refer to.

This
.

is

shown
exemplified
illustrated

by

   .   

For example,
For instance,
You only have to think of
Remember,

A key experiment

shows
exemplifies
illustrates

this.

   .   

This is shown by the following examples:
The following are examples of this:
The following is a case in point:
Let me give you a couple of examples:

   .   

X

is a case in point.

Take

X

for example
for instance

   .   

such as

   .   

Listen to example:

6. Showing importance/Emphasising

When you are taking notes, you cannot write down every word. You need to distinguish between important and less important information. The lecturer can use these signals to draw your attention to the important points.

I want to stress
I want to highlight
I'd like to emphasise
I'd like to put emphasis on
It's important to remember that
We should bear in mind that
Don't forget that
The crucial point is
The essential point is
The fundamental point is

   .   

Furthermore,
What's more,
This supports my argument that,
It follows, therefore, that
What (in effect) we are saying is

   .   

Listen to example:

7. Clarifying/Explaining/Putting it in other words

The lecturer will try to explain the meaning of difficult concepts. To do this he or she may repeat the information using different words. It is important for you to recognise that this is the same information expressed differently and not new information.

In other words,
Or rather,
That is to say,
Basically
To put it another way,
If we put that another way,
By which I mean
Or you could say
The point I'm making is
That is to say,
That is,
Namely,
i.e.
That means

   .   

What I

'm suggesting
'm trying to say
meant to say
should have said

is

Let me put it another way.

Listen to example:

8. Moving on/Changing direction

The lecture will be organised around several different points. It is important to notice when the lecturer moves from one point to the next. Listen for these signals.

That's all I want to say about X.
OK
Now
All right

Having looked at ., I'd now like to consider
I'd like now to move on to
Turning now to
So let's turn to
Moving on now to
I now want to turn to
The next point is
Another interesting point is
The next aspect I'd like to consider is
I'd now like to turn to
Let's now look at
If we could now move on to

   .   

Listen to example:

9. Giving further information

These signals show that the lecturer is proceeding in the same direction and giving more information.

Furthermore,
An additional point
Another point
A further point
A similar point
In addition
Moreover
Similarly
Apart from,
Not only ., but
We can add
I could add that
Further
As well as,
Besides

   .   
   .   

also.
too.
as well.

Listen to example:

10. Giving contrasting information

These signals show that the lecturer is proceeding in a different direction and giving unexpected or contrasting information. It is important to listen to this.

Although
However
On the other hand
Whereas
Despite
Nevertheless
But
Alternatively

   .   

Listen to example:

11. Classifying

When we classify, we arrange members of a group. The lecturer may use the following signals to show that a classification is being made.

There are

N

types
kinds
classes
categories
sorts
varieties

of X

: Y and Z.
. These are Y and Z.

The

are Y and Z.

X

consists of
comprises
can be divided into

N

categories
classes
kinds
types
varieties

. These are Y and Z.
: Y and Z.

Y and Z are

classes
kinds
types
categories
varieties

of X.

X may be classified

according to
on the basis of
depending on

   .   

Listen to example:

12. Digressing

Sometimes the lecturer may leave the main subject of the lecture for a while and then come back to it.

Incidentally
By the way
While I remember
Before I forget

   .   

Listen to example:

13. Referring to visuals

The following signals can be used to refer to a handout or an OHT or PowerPoint slide.

On this graph,
Take a look at this.
Let's have a look at this.
I'd like you to look at this.
I'd like to draw your attention to
Here we can see
The . shows
The graph illustrates
The horizontal axis represents
The vertical axis represents
As you can see,
If you look closely, you'll see

   .   

Listen to example:

14. Concluding

The lecture should end with a summary of the main points made. The following signals will help you to identify this.

So,
We've seen that
First we looked at . and we saw that
Then we considered . and I argued that
In short,
To sum up
In conclusion, I'd like to emphasise that

   .   

That completes my lecture.

Listen to example: