College Basics: Note Taking

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Notes are a major part of college, grad school, and studying abroad. When you’re ready to write your final paper or take an exam, you can rely on your notes to get proper information and make the process go by quickly. There are a few ways you can/will have to take notes and here some of my thoughts:

In-Class Notes

Keep up with what your professor says in class. A lot of times they will include things in their lectures that are not in the required text, their own packets, or in research you can do on your  own, and those nuances of their presentations will end up on tests. Also, if you throw in a solid quote or reference that your professor mentioned into your essays and presentations, they will really appreciate it.

Since middle school I’ve taken class notes the way my social studies teacher showed my class. Basically, I write out headings and subheadings, linking connected information via underlining and arrows. Occasionally, I’ll write in a text box with supplementary

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Thanks, Mr. Willis, for a method that has never let me down!

information like related websites, book titles/authors, and ideas of my own. I stick to a mix of shorthand and quotes so that I keep up with the lecture—It’s nearly impossible to write down everything said in class, so getting the basic ideas of most things with the occasional quote, page reference, and expanded paraphrasing will have to do. If  you’re interested in recording lectures it’s a good idea to ask the professor beforehand. They might not want the distraction or maybe they are working on publishing a book/article related to the class topic and don’t want their ideas getting too far from the room. (Stay tuned for my post on Audio Recorders for information about recording devices, transcribing, and how to get used to hearing your own voice)

Homework Notes

Even if you think you have a grip on a class from lectures and class time, it’s important to do your own research and learning. The extra work you do will definitely show through when you turn in your essay or presentation, which will impress your professors, get you that good grade, and possibly a reference for job/graduate school applications.

      Adding to in-class notes—I got into the habit of reading my class books with my class notes in hand, adding my own notes to what I had written down in class. This makes for more complete information and it adds to your own comprehension of the topics through repetition and expansion. Your professors won’t get to every little thing in class, so it’s up to you to fill in some of the blanks. While you’re reading your class book or packet, you’ll want to make quick remarks or note important references without totally interrupting your reading. Check out Basics: Post-its and Tabs for tips on how to take those quickie notes and keep track of important information. If you’ve bought your book, write in the margins all you want, but if you’ve rented it or plan to sell it when the semester is over, try out the Post-its and keeping your notes in a notebook. 

       Making your own notes—To get that A and impress your professor, it is important that you do more than write essays with just their information. If you’re taking a multiple choice test, don’t worry so much about this section, which is focused on essay and presentation preparatory notes. Basically, do some of your own reading. Check a few books out of the library, use their internet database, or find legitimate sources online that you can add to your work. It will show you are interested, a hard worker, and that you are capable of going further in your college/professional career than others.

Read and Re-Read Your Notes

When you’re getting ready to write your paper or put together your presentation be sure to go over your notes a few times—this is especially important for multiple choice and short answer tests. I liked to go over my notes with a highlighter, noting particularly important entries. You took notes for a reason, so use them. It might also be a good idea to rewrite them, emphasizing what you learned by reinforcing the information.

People take notes in a lot of different ways, and these are just a few things I considered when I went about it. As you progress through your college career you’ll find that more advanced classes require different strategies to keep up and work effectively. Stay tuned for more some of those more advanced note taking strategies in the future! For now, best of luck with your classes, and study hard!

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