Taking Notes

A method for taking excellent notes

He listens well who takes notes — Dante Alighieri

The first step to taking good notes, is being a good listener. If you haven’t  read the page on Listening begin there: If you look at books or websites on how to take notes you will find many suggestions.

Some advise you to write as quickly as possible, using symbols so you can write more quickly.

Others advise you not to write too much, to first listen carefully and then write only the main ideas and main terms.

Some suggest dividing your pages in two or three columns. Usually one section is for notes and the other for you to fill in missing information later or make notes on your notes.

The student in the picture has come to class prepared to take notes. She has found a method that works well for her. She found a seat in the front of the room where she will not be distracted and where she can see the blackboard and hear the professor best.

You might want to try several methods and use what works best for you. You will probably find one methods works best in some classes and not in others.

The Difference Between Taking Lecture Notes and Reading Notes

Taking Lecture Notes                                       Taking Reading Notes

1. Notes should be detailed. You can’t go back                    Can be less detailed – you can read the chapter again
in time to hear the part of the lecture you missed                 if you realize that you missed something.

2. You cannot take a break when tired. You need                You can take a break after 15-20 minute of reading
to save your energy for the last part of the lecture.               and exercise or eat a snack and then finish reading.
Some professors include important material then.

3. You cannot control the note-taking speed. Some            You can read the material at your own pace. You will
professors talk slowly, some talk very rapidly. Some           probably read simple material or material you know
talk faster at the end. You must adjust to this.                     fairly well faster, and difficult material more slowly.

4. In lectures, you get clues to what most                            In reading, you get clues about what’s most important
important by the professors’ word, tine of voice,                  from the class description, table of contents, chapter title,
what’s on blackboard, when they slowdown,                        heading , italics, bold print, lists, amount of space on the
when they list main ideas,time on topic or when                  topic,  graphs, charts, diagrams AND topics  covered in they say it’s important. It will be on the test.                         lectures, or that professors says are important.

5.Do NOT reflect on the information during a                      You should reflect on what you are reading and can
lecture. You will miss something.                                         include your reflections in your notes.

6. When you don’t understand a term (and                          When reading, you can stop to look up a word, and
often can’t spell it) you MUST look it up soon                      perhaps add it to a list of definitions.
after taking notes and find the spelling and
what it means

7. When you don’t understand part of a lecture,                  When you don’t understand the reading, you can
your classmates might not be much help. Go                      using understand better when you read it again,
to talk to your professor ask for help.                                   after learning the vocabulary that wasn’t familiar.

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