Note-taking is Learning!

There are many reasons to take notes, not just to record what the teacher is saying or to copy some notes for a term paper.  Six important reasons will be considered.

1.  To record information that may not be available from any other source.

2.  By making a clear set of notes your understanding  of the material will  improve.  If you cannot write the material in a few clear words then you do not understand it and better ask some questions.

3.  Note-taking focuses your attention on the lecture or printed page.  When the lecture gets dull, take notes by the yard.  When the lecture is clear you can take short notes.

4.  The amount of organization in your notes shows you how well the material is organized in your mind.

5.  Notes are essential for exam review.

6.  The best reason of all to take notes is to LEARN.  The act of listening, remembering, then writing is a natural learning process.

Styles of Note-taking

Two-column format:  divide the paper in 1/2.  This will force you to make your notes brief.  If you are using a numbered outline style, you start each point on a separate line.  Since your notes are brief, you do not waste paper and have the more information in front of you.  The more compressed you notes are, the easier it is to review.  The closer together the facts are, the more you  see the relationships among them.

Small column :   If you draw a line to make a small column on the right side of the page, you have room to right notes to yourself on questions you have after a self-test, to make additions or clarifications and to make personal instructions.

Wide left margin:   Use this to place key words from you notes.  This way you can build a glossary of terms from your notes.  This system makes it much easier to find facts, and the list of key words is a boon when it comes to studying for exams.

Lecture/Reading : You may divide your paper in half, take your reading notes on one side and then add the lecture notes on the other.  This gives you the textbook information you read and then you can add the teacher notes along with what you learned from your reader notes.

Note-taking Materials

1.  A hard-cover three-ringed notebook to hold 81/2 x 11 paper.

2.  Indexes with tabs to separate sections in the notebook.

3.  Lined paper.

4.  A pen or pens (different colors)


The NOTEBOOK: There are numerous types of notebooks, the really big advantage of the hard cover, loose-leaf  is the flexibility in its use.  You can move pages around, add material, remove stuff not needed.  The hard cover gives you a sturdy writing surface when you may not have a desk.  You have a portable desk.  You may want to keep a "home base" for your notes.  You have a notebook to use while you are involved in the material being studied and then can remove it, place in a notebook at home and have them organized, ready for exams.  You are building your own "textbook."  One other thing, NEVER, NEVER lend your notebook to anyone, even you best friend.  People tend to be careless with papers that do not belong to them.  If you wish to help on something they missed, with a loose-leaf, you can loan them a few pages for them to make copies and then put the notes right back into your notebook.  NO mess and they are not lost.

INDEX TABS : To save yourself time, purchase a set of index tabs.  Have one for each course.  They will keep your notes from being torn from use and make it easy to locate what you want.

PAPER: Anything smaller than the standard 81/2 x 11 will be a pain.  There are dozens of special papers available for three-ring loose-leaf notebooks that will assist you in your classes.  This is a bonus for using this method.  You can buy white or colored paper to fit your notebook.  A change in colors helps you mark off sections.

PENS: Choose a dark colored ink for day-to-day writing, and for papers to turn in to your teacher.  Teachers will not appreciate notes or papers in "hot pink," purple, etc.  Do buy colored pens.  You can use them to emphasize points, draw pictures or graphs, etc.  Pencils are not so hot, as they will smear or leave a light gray mark that is hard to read.

Note-taking Tips

Diagrams - Make liberal use of diagrams, tables and graphs.  Pictures save a lot of writing and sometimes there is no substitute.  Draw good size pictures so all you label will make sense (have room)

Key Phrases - Underlining key words of phrases in your notes, writing in the left margin, etc. is a useful study aid.  You make your own glossary and the underlining makes each section visible.

Questions - When you think of a question, write it in your notes then label it so it will stand out.  If you do not write questions when the occur they will  be lost and you will be surprised on an exam.

Cross Reference - The more you can relate one part of a subject to another part, the better your knowledge becomes.  If something you have in your notes on page 33 relates to something on page 21 of your notes, write it down so you know.

Paginate -   This is a fancy word for numbering pages.  Every page in your notes should be numbered in sequence.  If you keep separate notes for reading, labs, or class-paginate them separately.  This will be helpful if happen to drop your notebook and the pages become scattered, you loan them to a friend and need to place them back in order, etc.

Opinions - Write your opinion in your notes.  Be careful to keep your opinion separate from that of the teacher and the textbook.  Use (  ).  This will add some spice and let you know what you were thinking when you first looked at the idea.

Immediate Review - Review them immediately after they are made.  That way you can catch errors and test yourself.  Edit those that are not needed.