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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