Note-taking for Dummies (Part 1)

  • February 2013
  • Posted By JohnnyG

Are you the type who writes down every single word of the lesson like a chronicle, just to be safe and be able to reconstruct the lecture? Or are you the one, who marks key words and hopes that they will recall the key issues learnt during the class? Well, either way, one of the biggest difficulties a university student faces is the need of taking decent notes. Have you heard, that 60 per cent of the information you hear slips out of your mind within 24 hours? That’s why properly taken notes are essential to master at university. They help you remember and understand the material. There is so much to learn and the amount of knowledge you have to remember is so huge, that a good way to record and retrieve the material is a crucial point of the years spent at college.

But how does it work in real life? As everyone knows, there are lectures, which are impossible to follow well enough to get their key points. That’s when your work becomes an inconsistent draft and you lose focus of writing and listening at the same time. So you start missing the important facts while trying to keep up with the main points and your summary becomes totally messed up. In the end you just simply give up and stare out of the window, daydreaming and wishing to be the lucky one being anywhere else but the classroom, aren’t you?

Would you like to avoid being the proud owner of half pages of unfinished sentences? Would you like to be able to understand your writing-downs later on, maybe even use them to study at the end of the semester? Then just take a chill pill and read the following structural guidelines. Keeping these tips and tricks will help you to manage an organized system:

  • Start a new page in every lesson. Even more, try to find a title for every lecture, summarizing the key points studied on it.
  • Separate the lectures with dates and page numbers, therefore you will have a systematic structure of the classes you are visiting. Even if losing any part of the material during the semester, this way you will be able to recall which lesson to copy.
  • Don’t be afraid to color your notes! Highlight the most important information by creating headings and subheadings. Use highlighters to draw attention on them. Did you know that according to various researches, the human brain memorizes easier, when seeing a structured text separated with colors?
  • The usage of headers and bullet points to separate paragraphs make your brain remember faster the content of the notes written down. Believe it or not, the good appearance, or let’s say, design of your papers can make the learning way much easier!
  • Right after the lecture (before the newly learnt knowledge would sneak out from your head), sit down for a couple of minutes and read through your drafts. Even though you paid attention during the class, you may have unfinished sentences. Try to make your writing more legible, so they will be easy to understand when studying.
  • Summarize every page in a couple of words or sentences, using the key focus points. This “in-a-nutshell” summary can come very convenient when refreshing the material before the exam.
  • Reread your paper before class to refresh your knowledge. These couple of minutes can help you get into the flow of the lecture again.


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