Recently I began taking classes that are in lecture form, so I have to take notes. Up until this point in my life I’ve never had to use notes to study. And I mean never. Now in truth I’m a neurotically organized person, so the idea of taking and organizing notes wasn’t that foreign to me. What was really daunting about this undertaking was finding an organization method!
Thankfully mom came to my rescue and aided me in the search for an effective note taking system. There were many contrasting ideas, which I will briefly discuss, but eventually through multiple internet searches we unearthed the best.
First off I find taking notes on paper is more beneficial than taking notes on a computer, so I will only go over paper methods. When you use paper you are required to first process and comprehend what you heard in order to write it out in your own words. When taking notes on a computer you are more likely to copy exactly what you hear without actually understanding what you are hearing. This dampens your ability to recall information.
One of the systems that I wouldn’t use for school work was the Mind Map Method. In a Mind Map you have a central idea, topic, or concept and then bits of information and facts that define that main point. This form of note taking is not structured enough for my extremely organized self and would most likely stress me out. I have heard that people have used this method to great effect because it helps you create connections between pieces of information that you normally wouldn’t think believe to be related. This in turn improves your memory of the material. That being said, although I wouldn’t use a Mind Map for school work, I would use it to organize ideas or for planning a blog post.
Another system I would not use for lecture notes is Outlining. I have used outlining before, but it was more for summarizing what I already knew than for creating a new set of notes. I also have used it to organize the setup of my papers. I wrote what the main topic of the paragraph is and what subtopics and facts I wanted to include in that paragraph. And though outlining can be very practical for uses such as these, I don’t think that it is detailed enough to capture all the information that needs to be remembered.
The note taking practice I did adopt was The Cornell Method. In this method you have the Cues, Notes, and Summaries sections. You are supposed to fill in the Notes section during class with definitions, key information, and smaller details. Then after class you fill out the Cues section with main topics and concepts or defined words that correspond to what you wrote down in the Notes section. Finally the Summaries section is reserved for after class where you can put what you learned into a few simple sentences.
I changed this setup a bit so it better suits my studying habits. I fill my Notes section out during the lecture same as before, but instead of doing the Cues and Summaries sections right after the lecture, I fill out the Cues section during the lecture too. Then I save the Summaries section for when I study for a test. That way I’ll have to read over the material again which will make it easier to recall on the test.
One YouTuber and Blogger I found extremely informative on all things studying and school is CollegeInfoGeek. Check out his stuff for more ideas!