Overcoming a Dreadful Case of Senioritis

By Samantha Kutner

Senioritis is that drop in motivation and the tendency to procrastinate and/or entirely miss assignments during your final year or semester as an undergrad. It has ruined many an A student, but it doesn’t have to ruin you!

You might have great news about your plans after you graduate… or you might have no plans whatsoever. Both, surprisingly, cause a fair amount of anxiety. You could be inundated with options or offers (or realize that you have none). You may be thinking, “I finish this, and it’s over. I graduate, and then what?” In addition to all the uncertainty about the future, you still need to finish your assignments to graduate.

By the time you recognize the signs of senioritis, you may be in too deep to pull yourself out unassisted. Try talk to your friends and family and let them know that you would appreciate their extra support. In addition to your support group of friends and family, here are a few tried and tested tools that have worked for me to manage my own senioritis. I hope they can work for you too!

1. Perspective Taking

In my downtime, I like to read about people and how they’ve adapted to adversity and challenges. I am currently reading a memoir of someone with clinical anxiety disorder (who happens to be a brilliant and funny writer). Even if you are just mildly anxious, sometimes it helps reading about the experience of being anxious in someone else’s words. That feeling of “Oh, I’m not the only one experiencing these things” can be calming.

2. Find your way “in” to the material
Many student will put off taking classes they are not interested in until their last semester. As a senior, you may be taking a class that doesn’t even remotely relate to your major or career path. The hardest thing here is finding that connection between something you already know or enjoy and something that seems foreign or inaccessible. The more connections you can make, the easier it will be to get through the class. For example, I find it helps to draw the neuroscience figures to help me remember as opposed to memorizing slides. It lets me engage with figures and anatomical things in a more creative and less threatening way.

I’m no Ramon y Cajal, but you get the idea.

3. Find Your Way “Out” of the Material
Part of senioritis is fatigue. You’ve been through 4+ years of this difficult journey called “college,” and you might be feeling like a runner who gets a cramp during the last mile of a marathon. We all have something we enjoy doing, and sometimes it’s necessary to take a break and just do that thing! It could be taking a bath, going for a hike, seeing a concert with a friend, or just meeting with your friends (even if it is to talk about how stressed you are).

4. “Grandma’s Rule” or the “Premack Principle”
Ensure that the things you enjoy (for me, it’s dancing, reading, and writing) will only happen if you finish one of your goals. I tell myself often, “If I finish half of my chapter by 6pm, then I can go out to that movie or salsa dancing or take that dance class.” It requires a little bit of self-discipline, but you’ll find that rewarding yourself when you do get things done can provide that motivation you need to finish your last semester. The important thing is to set realistic, clear, small goals. An unclear, vague, or terrifying goal would be saying “I can’t eat dinner until I’ve finished my entire essay or the entire study guide for my exam.” A more realistic goal could be, “I am going to answer and fully understand at least 3 questions in my study guide before going out tonight.”

5. Seek support and extra help, if needed
Make time to speak with your instructors or TAs. You may just be misunderstanding one element of a single mathematical concept and figuring that out can make the difference between procrastination and a sense of feeling like you can accomplish a decent grade in a class. Come into the Writing Center if you’re having a hard time organizing or structuring your senior thesis or final research paper! There is also no shame in seeking help from a counselor to talk through problems and adopt healthier strategies for succeeding in your final semester.

None of this is easy, but I’m right there with you, seniors.

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Using Effective Language in a Cover Letter and Resume

By Ashley Fluellen

Dear Job Seeker,

I think it’s safe to say that applying for a new job isn’t always the most fun experience in the world. Possibly the most stressful aspects of the application process come with the resume and cover letter. These documents carry a lot of weight, as they are often the first impression that your potential employer has of you. You want to make sure that this potential employer sees that you are a good fit for the job, knows you can communicate well through writing, and gets an idea of your personality. This can be difficult, but if you follow the tips laid out below, you’re sure to have that job in a snap.

Tip 1: Reflect the job description

Job descriptions help to create expectations for both the employer and the hopeful employee. You’re most likely applying for positions that match your specific skills and experience, and you want to convey that in your resume and cover letter. Highlight the skills and experiences you have that match what the employer is looking for. For example, if you know a lot about using Photoshop to create digital advertisements, and you’re applying for an advertising position, make that a key point in your skills section. You’re selling yourself as the best person for the job, and the easiest way to do that is to highlight what you know you can do that the job demands.

An important addition to this tip is don’t lie about your experiences and skills in hopes that your resume will get you an interview. If you lie on your resume and get the job, you will undoubtedly come to a point where you’re assigned a task you don’t know how to do—despite it being a required skill in the job description. Don’t put yourself, or your employer, in that position.

Tip 2: Find out “to whom it may concern”

This really isn’t the best way to start your cover letter. Not only does this create an impersonal first impression to your potential manager, but it also makes you seem lazy. If you can’t even do enough research to find out to whom you’re applying, how could they trust you with more significant projects? Look on the company’s website or re-read the job ad to figure out to whom you should address your letter.

Of course, there will be times when no amount of research will give you the name of “whom it may concern.” If you can’t find this information, make sure to include details about the work the company does and why you’re well-suited to it. This is a great way to show that you took the time to do research on the company, even though you were unable to find an addressee for your application materials.

Tip 3: Use purposeful and active language

Nothing is more boring than having to read the same descriptors for different people over and over again. Every employer already assumes you are “very organized” or “a hard worker.” What really packs a punch is rephrasing these words to have more relevant meaning. You can change “I’m very organized” to “I ensure that deadlines are met and the product is free of any errors.” Also, vary the descriptions for your job duties so that you can avoid annoying and unproductive repetition (i.e., don’t say “managed” or “developed” over an over again). Try to be as precise and descriptive without overwriting. Remember, your potential employer will see many applications, so stay concise while you create detailed job descriptions. 

Using active voice makes for a more dynamic cover letter and resume. Using non-helping verbs invokes a sense of action. Employers will appreciate this type of language because it shows that you are someone who is, in a realistic sense, active instead of passive, which can go a long way in any job (check out our previous blog on active and passive voice).

Tip 5: End it with a bang

Cover letters, when done correctly, are meant to get you an interview. So, why not end your letter by simply asking for one? This could seem a bit too bold, but simply ending with an “I look forward to discussing potential interview dates with you soon,” is short, sweet and to the point. Be sure to include contact information here as well, as you want to make it as easy as possible for the person trying to hire you. 

Now that you have written an effective cover letter, all that’s left is to sign!

Sincerely,

Ashley
UWC Consultant

 

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Out of the Sheet Music and Into the Essay: Specific Suggestions for Writing about Music

By Cameo Flores

Music is highly subjective to the ear, but it is even more subjective when you write about its nitty-gritty details. This blog contains a few things to keep in mind when you write a paper about music.

There are three types of musical analysis: textual, aural, and experiential.  Textual analysis is when someone is analyzing a readable record of music like a score, composer biography, or a performance criticism. Aural analysis requires a broad knowledge of music theory and aural training to comment on audio without a hard copy of the music. Experiential analysis occurs when you witness music occurring through any of the five senses.

When writing a textual analysis of music, consider the following:

  1. Assume your audience knows your language. This means that you do not need to explain what a secondary function chord is, only why it’s important in the grand scheme of your analysis.
  2. Score analysis is extremely specific, and there are no specific alt codes for music notation. Make a copy of your marked score and attach it in your appendix.
  3. Be sure to cite measures as “m. #” for a single measure, “mm. # – #” for more than one measure.
  4. Do the score analyses before you begin to write your paper. Most of the time, the score analysis will help you form an argument for your thesis.
  5. Typically, you will be writing something that is either musicological or ethnomusicological. These papers use Chicago Style for citations—make sure your citing style is consistent!
  6. Most of these papers will involve a personal opinion, so don’t be afraid to show it as long as you back it up with evidence.
  7. Because music is such a broad, subjective topic, it’s important to establish a concentrated and specific analysis. A narrow focus should help prevent you from going on unneeded tangents.

While writing an aural or experiential analysis of music, remember that these topics are more subjective than a textual analysis. This requires a fearless perspective that is both well-informed and steadfast. Here are some points to consider while writing about these modes of music.

  1. Make sure you use diverse evidence in a narrow argument. If you can back an argument stating that you heard a plagal cadence, assert it—but also talk about other places you have heard a plagal cadence. Diverse evidence strengthens your argument in the limited parameters of aural analysis.
  2. Cultural analyses are oftentimes tied into these types of writing, so keep in mind that you are an observer of a specific musical time period of musical culture. Avoid making general assumptions and recognize your limitations as a writer. Acknowledge your cultural perspective limitations in your written examinations. Limitations are usually addressed in a preface or a concluding paragraph.
  3. Hum or whistle intervals, chords, cadences, and harmonies to yourself. If you do not aurally know the music well enough where you cannot recite the music from memory, you need to spend more time on the aural analysis. This is a good way to correct any mistakes you made in the analysis as well.
  4. Treat all of these writings as if you are an “extraterrestrial” in the subject you are writing about. Write as if you know about music, but have no other cultural influences swaying your opinions.
  5. Be open minded and prepared to be critiqued because you have a mindset limited to yourself. Open mindedness is key to successful aural and experiential writing.

Since subjectivity is so prevalent in music papers, remember that you will need a lot of diverse information to back any argument.  There typically is no right or wrong answer in music (except for, perhaps, music history and theory) so remember to assert your opinion confidently in your writing. Avoid using uncertain language, but acknowledge any informational shortcomings. Keep in mind that writing about music is purely analytical because of its subjectivity. There are no absolute right or wrong answers, only argumentative strengths!

 

 

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Coffee Makes the Student’s World Go ‘Round

By Elizabeth Kelly

As college students, we acquire this impressive ability to accomplish large tasks in very little time and on very little sleep.  Let’s face it—college is all about taking five hours to complete a task that should only take one hour and taking only 30 minutes to complete a project that should have taken a few days.  There are a few key elements that make this poor time-management strategy manageable: the most important being coffee.

Whether it’s four shots of espresso or the largest size of the strongest brew, coffee is what facilitates those all-nighters and 12-hour-long study sessions.  The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant to the central nervous system and can improve mental performance and concentration (Pietrangelo). If a student buys coffee every day, the math comes out to roughly $120 per month, $480 per semester, and $960 per academic year. You could be spending even more if you’re buying  those venti, extra-hot, no whip, and triple stirred cups of brain stimulant from Starbucks.  For some people coffee may be a luxury, but, for students who have more work to do than there are hours in a day, coffee is really more of a necessity.

Coffee is great for tolerating those 8 am classes, but another staple of a college student’s study habits is the copious amount of snacks that are consumed alongside those fancy caffeinated beverages.  Healthy snacks such as spinach, figs, and sunflower seeds can be a great option for a boost in brain power.  However, few students can afford these expensive healthy snacks, especially when all of that money goes towards coffee drinks—not to mention that no one wants to eat green leaves for a snack.  As a result, most students settle for the $0.99 bag of potato chips, Finding Dory fruit snacks, or even a package of ramen that can be bought for a quarter.  These snacks often have high levels of sodium and even higher levels of sugar.  Between the sugary snacks and the sugary caffeinated drinks, a mental crash is almost inevitable.  One can only hope that the crash comes after that 12-page essay on the philosophy of some important historical figure is finished.

Many students swear by their snacking and caffeine habits as contributors to their success, but there are definitely ways to make these habits more healthy, cost effective, and helpful for studying. In terms of buying coffee, brewing coffee at home and adding a touch of milk is much more cost effective than those $5 sugared ones bought on campus.  However, it is virtually impossible to make those complicated 5-pump mocha lattes at home, so if buying coffee is necessary, go with a smaller size and sugar free sweetener (if you’re into that sort of thing). That can help you avoid the crash that comes after the surge in brain power.

When reaching for a study snack, consider grabbing something that may be slightly more nutrient-dense and lower in artificial sugars, such as a granola bar or a whole piece of fruit. These snacks are still more cost effective than those kale salads or fancy dried fruits and nuts, all while providing more nutrients than a bag of cheese balls or some leftover pizza. Eating slightly healthier snacks will also be more beneficial in boosting your energy and concentration levels while studying!

In reality, coffee and snacks are what help a college student make it through a long day of brutal exams and endless essay writing.  With a little modification, and in moderation, both snacks and coffee can be extremely beneficial to college students and their study habits.

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Navigating the Jungle of Summary and Synthesis

By Madison Bosque

In the rough terrain of college, many types of writing can feel like a herd of buffalo stampeding towards you. However, it doesn’t all have to be so scary! Let’s make summary and synthesis part of your survival kit to navigate college.

Summary can be thought of as describing a particular source in your own words by pulling out the most important aspects. Normally, this type of writing doesn’t require your opinion; you are simply restating what someone else has said. This type of writing can happen in any kind of assignment, whether it be for your Introduction to Biology course or your psychology class about behavioral analysis.

A summary is like going to a zoo and only looking at the tiger exhibit. While there are many other animals at this zoo, you’re only looking at this one tiger. You take note of the coloration of the tiger and the white dot on the back of its ears. You view the habitat of the enclosure, what the tiger has to eat, and what sounds it makes.

The writing process, then, would be like describing this tiger exhibit to a friend. Although your friend didn’t go to the exhibit, they should get a good idea of what the tiger looked like, what was in the exhibit, and if they want to maybe to go the exhibit themselves someday! Similarly, a summary of an article should provide your reader with enough information to get a good understanding of the content without having to actually read the entire source.
Synthesis can be described as combining certain elements and aspects of multiple sources into one single paragraph or paper. The main idea for synthesis is to take the best, most interesting, most noteworthy pieces of a bunch of work and weave them into the best paper ever! Synthesis can be used in almost any class, but it’s mainly used when writing things like research papers where you take multiple sources covering the same subject and combine them to get a specific conclusion. It could also be used in a comparison essay when you need to show similarities and differences between multiple texts.

Think of synthesis like creating a “Big Cats” exhibit at a zoo. You do your research on what actually makes a cat a “Big Cat,” and then you include or exclude certain species from the exhibit based on that definition.  The exhibit would include information on what sets these species apart from other species of cats, as well as what sets them apart from each other.

Synthesis requires looking at more than one source, just like you’d have to look at more than one species to come up with a list of “Big Cats.” The writing process would involve looking at what the articles are saying and how those conclusions match or counter other researcher’s findings in relation to the argument you are trying to make in your paper.

Don’t let synthesis and summary add to the jungle of assignments and papers you stress about; navigating the terrain is easy if you stick to the assignment description and don’t let the amount of research intimidate you. Just use your toolkit of the Writing Center blog, resources, and consultants so you don’t get lost in the jungle!

 

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A Modest Proposal: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Conference Proposals

By Reece Gibb

Writing a conference proposal for the first time can be intimidating—especially if you’ve never been in a conference environment before. So many questions come to mind: how do I choose a topic? What form does a conference proposal take? Who is the audience of my proposal?

When you’re considering a topic to choose for a conference, think of both the conference theme and the related audience. Think of a conference as a family dinner. You head home to find a colorful array of relatives mingling with your family: among them the outspoken uncle, the oddball nephew, and your crazed aunt. When dinner is served, conversations start on all sides of the table. A few cousins discuss your aunt’s car accident, while your grandparents argue over whether your uncle should have married a younger woman. Which conversation you chime in on has to do with which subject you feel you have the most contribute to. You may know more about one particular development in the family, but every discussion centers around what’s happening in the family.

In much the same way, a conference is often set around a subject or set of subjects. Like your family dinner, you are heading into different conversations happening at once, so you want to pick a topic that you feel you have a firm grasp on or interest in. When you’ve decided on your topic, look at the conference’s call for proposals (CFP). A CFP is a short prompt that details the conference’s formatting requirements for the proposal, the conference’s theme, and sometimes the “ideal” attendee. Be sure to write down a few of the defining terms and keywords used in the CFP so you can incorporate them into your proposal. The CFP may also ask you to specify which panel or session you are applying to, so make sure your topic adheres to the topic of a specific session.

Once you’ve gotten a feeling for the expectations and language of the conference, ask yourself what you want to contribute to the discussion. In the proposal itself, you want to indicate where exactly your topic factors into an academic conversation. At the beginning of your proposal, you want to introduce “a key source or scholar, or situating your work in line of inquiry or major debate in your field of study”(Sano-Franchini, 2011). More broadly, does your paper, research, study, etc., “challenge, extend, or complicate existing work in your field?” (Sano-Franchini, 2011). Aside from just introducing the essential components of your research, you are stating in your conference proposal how exactly you are contributing to or changing your field of study.

Finally, before you submit your proposal to a conference, it would probably be a good idea to have an advisor look over your proposal. Consulting with someone familiar with your topic who has been admitted to and involved in conferences before can be beneficial, especially as you work through the kinks of writing a proposal for the first time. With these strategies, you can rest easy knowing that you can make the case for why your research deserves to be heard in the “family dinner” of academia.

References

Sano-Franchini, J.  (2011). Writing the academic conference proposal. GradHacker. Retrieved from http://www.gradhacker.org/2011/06/01/writing-the-academic-conference-proposal/

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Constructing a Rogerian Argument

By Chase Fayeghi

Picture this: two people, each with opposing views, have been duking it out for some time. The battlefield is littered with logical fallacies, bullets of insults are shot back and forth piercing each opponent, and, in the end, only feelings get hurt with no progress made on the issue. This is often what debates and arguments look like, especially to outsiders.

Debates and arguments don’t have to be like this, though. There is a way to establish your point without causing World War III. Instead, you can utilize a Rogerian argument. A Rogerian argument depends on the writer (and subsequently the reader) being willing to find a middle ground on an issue (Kiefer, n.d.).

The introduction is critical to a Rogerian argument as this is where the writer introduces the problem to the reader (Kiefer, n.d.; Moxley, n.d.). The difference between a traditional argument and a Rogerian argument is that instead of stating the writer’s viewpoint (that would then demand agreement from the reader), the writer instead describes how the issue at hand affects both sides. The length of the introduction shouldn’t be too long relative to the rest of the paper; the overarching goal is to illustrate immediately that the writer is a mediator rather than as a biased party.

The next step is potentially the most difficult part of constructing a Rogerian argument. The writer must put themselves in the opposition’s viewpoint and understand the logic behind it. The writer must present the opposition’s viewpoint in as neutral language as possible (by avoiding stereotypes and biased language, for example). In other words, language that is intended to elicit a certain feeling or reaction rather than simply presenting the facts of the opposition is avoided.

Some writers may take this as an opportunity to manipulate or invalidate the reader’s argument; however, this would prove to be ineffective since the reader may detect this attempt and consider the writer as a threat to their viewpoint. It is important to remember that if the reader—at any time throughout the argument—considers the writer to be an instigator rather than a mediator, then the credibility of the writer and the argument will be diminished. Ultimately, this section of the argument is crucial because if either of the above conditions are not met, then the reader might not be willing to accept compromise in the later sections of the argument.

The hope is that by the third section of the argument, the reader is still, you know, reading the text, but also that the reader is in a position to negotiate compromise. The third section of Rogerian argument structure allows the writer, again in as neutral language as possible, to describe and ultimately convince the reader of the writer’s viewpoint . This can be done by presenting factual information (i.e., the writer should use data and scientific observation, not others’ analyses). When describing the writer’s viewpoint, the purpose is not to discredit the other side but to make the writer’s viewpoint appear valid.

Finally, the conclusion of a Rogerian argument should show the reader how the facts and points presented above would benefit both parties and how compromise or alternative solutions could solve the problem. A Rogerian argument structure is most beneficial when dealing with a topic that is sensitive or controversial (Moxley, n.d.). The essence of this structure focuses on the writer presenting the issue at hand neutrally and explaining how both sides of the argument are affected by the problem. This is a stark departure from a “traditional” argument in which the writer would ask the reader to abandon their interests and adopt the writer’s viewpoint.

References

Kiefer, K. (n.d.). What is a  Rogerian argument? Writing@CSU. Retrieved from https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/teaching/co300man/com5e1.cfm.

Moxley, J. (n.d.). Rogerian argument. Writing Commons. Retrieved from http://writingcommons.org/open-text/genres/academic-writing/arguments/318-rogerian-argument.

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Adaptation within Academia

By Iris Saltus

As students (and as individuals in general), we have to be able to adapt. We must be able to change our study habits when we move from high school into college. We must be able to change our mindset when we go from our 9:00 chemistry lecture to our 10:00 Core Humanities class. We must be able to adjust how we think when we start taking upper level classes or when we start planning and writing a dissertation.

Sometimes these changes aren’t easy, but adapting as a student often requires trying new things and accepting that some of those things might not work out. Halfway through the semester, you might realize that taking notes using the Cornell Method is just too confusing (and you never look at your notes again, anyway). Maybe you’ve tried doing your homework first thing in the morning instead of at 10 at night, but now you really need that sleep time. Perhaps you’ve tried backward planning but can’t stick to that schedule. Forcing yourself to set aside an extra hour each day to stay on top of your differential equations homework can be miserable; convincing yourself to spend an hour each day reading for your literature seminar class can be arduous. Still, we all manage to pull through—some a little less scathed than others.

Don’t be discouraged, though! It’s okay to change up your schedule (if you can) or abandon ineffective strategies that you’re trying to use to get through your course work. The University Writing Center blog itself must be able to adapt as well, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re changing up our schedule! Instead of publishing three new blog posts each week, we’ll be posting one new blog every Tuesday. We will continue to post a “throwback Thursday” blog taken from our archives on our Facebook and Twitter pages every Thursday.

So, don’t be afraid of those changing due dates or terrifying new citation styles. Try something new, change your way of thinking, and find a way to adapt!

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A “Word” on Creating a Table of Contents

By Jacob Trujillo

A table of contents establishes a simple way of maneuvering through a document that contains several sets of information. It allows the reader to access specific content areas in a document by setting a list of those specific content areas, along with their page number, at the beginning of the document. There are two ways that you can go about creating a table of contents in Microsoft Word: manually and automatically.

Manually creating a table of contents is useful for documents that won’t need to be updated.  By constructing a table of contents manually, you begin by clicking the area of the document where you’d like to insert the table. Then, on the Document Elements tab, under Table of Contents, click the Insert tab and choose a template under Manual Table of Contents:

For example, by clicking on the Classic template, it will appear on the document like so:From this point, you can modify the text formatting (e.g., font, font size, accentuation, etc.) and begin to manually insert every individual entry into the table, along with its respective page number. You’re able to add more levels to the table by copying an existing entry and pasting it wherever you choose, or you can remove levels depending on how many entries you need. If you need to update the table, you have to manually adjust each entry and its page number in accordance with the updated document, which can become time consuming.

For more intricate tables of contents that may require frequent revising, Microsoft Word provides automatic tables that you can efficiently modify and update with (ideally) little hassle. Creating an automatic table of contents begins with selecting proper heading styles. As you draft your document, categorize specific content areas with level headings. Under the Styles tab, you can choose level headings to label your document:

Style Heading 1 can be used to break up the document into general categories of information. If you need to split a general category into subcategories, you can use level headings 2 and 3 to identify specific content areas in a category. When you’ve completed the current document with all of your selected level headings in place, you’re ready to insert the automatic table of contents. Like inserting a manual table of contents, you choose the area of the document where you’d like to place the table, click the Document Elements tab, and under Table of Contents, insert your preferred Automatic Table of Contents template. For example, a Core Humanities 202 compare and contrast essay could be categorized like so:

Updating an automatic table of contents is simple: once you’re finished with modifying the document, click on the table, and on the tab that appears at the top, click Update Table. You have the option of specifically updating page numbers, or you can update the entire table. Remember that if you make manual changes to an automatic table of contents, those changes will be erased when the table updates.While you may not need to use a table of contents for your normal, everyday research papers, they are very useful for theses, dissertations, and other large documents. And there you have it, constructing, inserting, and updating a table of contents, manually and automatically.

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Strategies for Effective Note-Taking

By Zoey Rosen

“TAKE NOTES.” These chilling instructions from a professor can take your anxiety levels for a class from zero to off the charts. Taking notes in an important aspect of attending a lecture. The act of writing down the information will help you internalize it and also gives you a piece of the lecture to take home and review at another time. However, there’s only one problem with notes. Did anyone teach us exactly how to take them?

Taking notes effectively is only possible if you find the method that’s right for you. Taking notes with your professor’s preferred method does not guarantee that you will retain the information. Learning to take notes can take time and energy, but the outcome will be worth it. Below are some examples of notetaking strategies that you may want to try out and incorporate into your lecture routine.

  1. Cornell Method

Divide your paper into three parts: main ideas, keywords, and summary. Under ideas, you’ll fill in information that is important during a lecture. Under keywords, you’ll put the major terms or takeaways from that page of your notes. The summary section will provide you room to put down the main point of that section of your notes for when you go back and review the page.

  1. Split-Page Method

In this method, your page will be divided into two sections—one for primary ideas and one for secondary. This lets you prioritize your information in an organized manner so it is easier to see what the major points are when you study.

  1. Make a Mind Map

A good method for those who learn better with pictures and diagrams, a mind map will help you organize the ideas from the lecture in a visual representation. Taking this map further, if you separate your clusters by color, you have an additional level of organization that helps keep the ideas clear.

  1. Make your own code

Lectures can go by really fast, and you may not be able to write down every word the professor says. Making up your own abbreviations and symbols will make the physical writing process go faster. Plus, when you go home and translate what you wrote, your symbols will get you to think a little deeper about the concepts—more opportunities for learning!

  1. The Outline Method

This system of note-taking has you organizing the main points of a paper using indents. The main idea will be written next to the left-hand side of the page with supplemental information under it and indented. The more specific information that gets added, the more levels your notes will have.

  1. The Chart Method

Especially useful for history courses, setting up a chart with columns that are relevant to your class can show the relationship between and importance of subjects introduced during lectures. Adding to a chart over the course of a semester will leave you with a comprehensive list of important information that can come in handy for finals.

While these are good strategies, there could always be another method that works better for you. Try out all the styles and see what helps the information stick. Your notes may turn out to be the best you’ve ever taken.

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