The vital skill of note taking.

There’s an old detective saying about notes… if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen. Many in investigation or compliance roles get talked about the importance of making notes, but many also don’t realise their value and importance in maintaining credibility.

Rarely is there any formal (or even ad hoc) training on good notetaking skills and it’s mostly learnt on the job. Or, unfortunately, learnt through mistakes and being cross examined in the witness box. A recent case involving contemporaneous notes highlighted this point (read it here).

Making notes during any investigation is a critical process. Your ability to review your notes, when required, can be equally critical. If you can’t decipher your handwriting or have missed important points, it has been a fertile exercise.  Making detailed notes can be challenging when you are on your own and you are engaged in other tasks such as entering details onto a laptop, planning your next question, and managing other tasks. There are many methods of note taking – and no one way is necessarily right – but the important thing is that the notes are comprehensive, made contemporaneously and are relevant.

One such method that may assist is called the “Quadrant method.”

To make notes using the quadrant method, follow these steps:

  1. Divide your page into four quadrants. You can use a ruler and pencil, or simply draw four lines across your page to create four equal sections.
  2. Label each quadrant. Common labels include:
  • Questions
  • General notes
  • Outstanding, action items
  • Action items for others
  1. As you take notes during the meeting or interview, write each piece of information in the appropriate quadrant.
  • Questions: Write down any questions about the meeting or the topics discussed.
  • General notes: Write down key points, critical details, and important insights from the meeting/interview.
  • My action items: Write down any tasks you are responsible for completing due to the meeting.
  • Action items for others: Write down tasks assigned to other meeting attendees
  1. After the interview, review your notes and add any additional information that you need.
  2. File your notes in a safe place so that you can reference them later.

Meeting Notes

The quadrant method is a simple and effective way to take notes during interviews. It helps you to stay organised and focused, and it ensures that you capture all of the important information.

Here are some additional tips for using the quadrant method:

  • Use abbreviations and symbols to save time.
  • Use bullet points and short sentences to make your notes easy to read.
  • Leave space between each quadrant so that you can add additional information later.
  • Review your notes after the meeting to make sure that they are complete and accurate.
  • File your notes in a safe place so that you can reference them later.

 

In the end, the particular notetaking method you use is not important. The important thing is: take notes consistently, contemporaneously (see our blog on that here) and effectively.