Identifying key Ideas in lectures

Identifying key Ideas in lectures
In this tutorial, you will learn how to identify important points in lectures.
Important ideas and their elaboration
Very often, key ideas are delivered in lectures in the following pattern:
lecturers tell the topic sentence in which the key idea is stated and then
further elaborate and explain the idea. The elaboration can be explaining
key terms mentioned in the idea, mentioning the “why”, “what”, “how” and
“when” aspects concerning the idea, or quoting examples to illustrate.
For example, the key idea and elaboration pattern can be found in the
following extract:
The starting point in planning any speech is to formulate a precise
objective. This should take the form of a simple, concise statement of
intent. For example, the purpose of your speech may be to obtain funds,
to evaluate a proposal, or to motivate your team. No two objectives will be
served equally well by the same presentation; and if you are not sure at
the onset what you are trying to do, it is unlikely that your plan will achieve
The bolded part of the extract is the key idea. The italic part is the first
elaboration of the idea which is about the “how” aspect concerning
formulation of objective. The underlined portion is the second elaboration of
the idea giving examples of what are possible objectives.
Aware of key ideas
The key idea and elaboration pattern is the most commonly used method to
deliver ideas in lectures. This pattern is repeated used in a lecture so that
what you often hear is one important idea, some elaboration , then another
important idea and elaboration.
The question is how you can identify each of this key idea and elaboration
The trick is to be more alert to signals used by most lecturers to indicate key
Key idea signals
There are eight common ways lecturers use to signal key ideas:
1. Introduce a new topic:They explicitly say that they have arrived at a
new topic.
2. Say words that express importance: They explicitly tell you that the
following idea is important.
3. Define terms: They define some terms and you know the statement that
express the relationships between these terms is key.
4. Mention stages or a list of steps: They express a sequence of
important ideas in stages or in points.
5. Write sentence on blackboard: They write the idea on the blackboard.
6. Verbal or bodily stress: They speak slowly and louder or use
exaggerated body movements to help you know the idea is important.
7. Illustrate idea with graphs or drawings: They use graphic or drawing
to elaborate the idea.
Restate or summarise: They restate, or summarise the idea fearing that
you didn’t get it in the first place.
You have seen how key ideas are usually followed by elaboration. You have
also learnt how lecturers usually signal to you which ideas are important.