Tips for better note-taking

Carly Boens (TheLorian)

As a college student, note-taking is important for academic success. Taking notes, especially comprehensive and organized ones, leads to better understanding of reading and class material. Additionally, taking notes is shown to help students retain information better, and provides an extra study resource once exam time rolls around. While studying from a textbook can be useful, it can also be overwhelming, given the amount of information that they contain. At times, however, it can be difficult to determine which method of notetaking is best for oneself.

As a general rule, simplicity tends to be the best trick for having easy to understand notes. If your notes are overloaded with too much information and detail, they can be difficult to study and to refer back to. Thus, an outline structure is helpful for many people when they are taking notes. Whether you are in class or going over a reading assignment, this is an easy method to use. Writing down the main points first and then adding subtopics of extra information is a simple way to keep your notes organized while also emphasizing key points. Bullet points help keep everything organized. Once you understand key themes from the lesson, learning the details will be easier later. Additionally, it is vital to avoid writing down everything your professor says. Taking notes in class is important, but paying attention to what they are saying and writing down only the essentials is much more useful.

While you are taking notes, make sure to note the concepts or terms that are confusing to you. While you are not expected to understand everything right away, indicating which parts confused you initially can remind you to look them up later or ask your professor for clarification. If you find that you have a hard time writing fast enough to keep up, developing your own form of shorthand can be helpful. Abbreviating words and using symbols for certain words can help move things along much faster. As long as you can understand later what you wrote, use whatever shortcuts help you.

The debate between handwriting and typing notes has been widely researched, and studies show that handwriting notes helps students retain information better. However, there are pros and cons on both sides of the discussion. Handwriting can be slower and harder to edit, but leads to better comprehension and helps activate memory pathways. On the other hand, typing notes can be faster and easier to go back and edit. However, it is shown that students become much more distracted when they take notes on a laptop (Lincoln 2020). Handwriting beats typing when it comes to taking class notes | Science News for Students

However you decide to take your notes, it is important that you take the time after to review them. Reviewing notes after class and periodically throughout the week can help you remember the content more thoroughly. If you learn your notes throughout the class rather than all before an exam, studying will be much easier. All in all, it is important to learn and utilize which method of note taking works best for you.

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