Note taking is a complex activity that requires comprehension and selection of information and written production processes. Here we review the functions, abbreviation procedures, strategies, and working memory constraints of note taking with the aim of improving theoretical and practical understanding of the activity. The time urgency of selecting key points and recording them while comprehending new information at the same time places significant demands on the central executive and other components of working memory. Dual- and triple-task procedures allow the measurement of the momentary cognitive effort or executive attention allocated to note taking. Comparative data show that note taking demands more effort than reading or learning. However, it requires less effort than the creative written composition of an original text. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.