Throughout this first nine weeks we have covered a lot of content – in our last progress survey a lot of you said you felt you had grown as students and writers, but just as many said you still needed guidance with time management and note-taking. With your midterm exam coming up, you need to ask yourself – am I taking enough notes? Am I taking ‘good’ notes?
As juniors you will probably realize that reading over assignments or texts once will not be enough – likewise, jotting things down in class and reading over them once will also probably not be sufficient to get the grade you desire. Below you will find a few helpful tips for note-taking that will (hopefully) help you out this semester and beyond.
1.Write things down in class, but know that these are not ‘notes’. Good notetakers re-write their messy notes.
You’re probably thinking “Wait, what?”, but yes – your messy, jotted down notes from class are not actually good ‘study notes’. Rewriting these notes for legibility does two things – one, it gives you a better copy to study from in the future and two, is a form of studying and reinforcing the information as you have to read the text (visual/cognitive) and rewrite the text (knesthetic/cognitive). See the student examples of messy class notes, and rewritten notes below.
2. Find a method of notetaking that works for you – yes, there are different ways to take notes!
Simply writing everything your teacher says in a long list is not effective note-taking. You need to find a way of organizing your notes that works for you, whether its a formal style like Cornell Notes or the Outline Method (this works great for textbook note-taking), or even the Doodle Method (yes, drawing pictures helps!). Maybe you have a system of using highlighted sections, color coding, or diagrams. Whatever it is, find the method that works for you.
3. Don’t try to write everything down in class.
As juniors you hopefully know by now that trying to copy everything down word for word from a powerpoint, or that your teacher says, is a fruitless endeavor. You need to focus on getting just the key facts down, and doing so in your own voice. Re-reading my technical, dry powerpoint text later isn’t as effective as reading your own voice and natural word choice. Additionally, when you rewrite your notes (see #1 above) you can also go back and add in extra detail that you didn’t have a chance to get in class. Moreover, you will have the benefit of having the entire class to ruminate on, and all the additional connections you made to integrate and add to your notes later.
4. You can also RECORD your notes!
Are you an auditory learner? You may want to consider downloading a free sound recording app on your phone (voice memo for ISO is terrible you guys…) and recording yourself reading these notes. I am a strong auditory learner – because of this I use up most of my data on audiobooks and podcasts – and I remember the things I hear. This also means that for big projects, or when I attend a conference and have ideas I’d like to work on or get back to later, I record myself discussing these ideas outloud. Later, I can play them back to jog my memory, or to transcribe in any written or typed notes I take. Or, you can read your written notes aloud and listen to that sound file when its time to study. There are all kinds of new apps coming out for auditory note-takers, but if you don’t want to pay for them, just get a free sound recording app and try it out.
5. You might use a variety of note-taking styles.
I listen to auditory notes and podcasts and audiobooks. I jot quick notes on sheets of paper or handouts or napkins or whatever I have around. I rewrite my notes to look ‘neat’ and usable long into the future. I highlight, underline, use different colored highlights. I use everything I need to have effective notes that help me remember the content so I can put it to use and learn it – and so I can refer back to it whenever I need a refresher. Know that you may use a combination of lots of different styles until you find what works for you! Below you’ll see an example of notes I took FIVE YEARS AGO that I STILL USE. In them I employed a variety of styles of notetaking… how many styles will work for you?