What does note-making look like for you? Do you feel you need to write down everything that is being said or written on the slides? You may worry about leaving something important out: what if it is on the exam? If this sounds familiar, you are certainly not alone.
Note-making can be a powerful tool for you to take control of your learning and studying. All it takes is to think about the process and use it to your advantage. Here, we give you some tips for doing this.
- Think about why you are making notes in the first place. Are they to remind you of what was said in a lecture? Will they form the basis of an assignment? Are they going to be the start of your revision?
- Approach note-making as a way to engage with the material in a way that makes sense for you. Only then will you really understand the content, and by extension, learn it effectively.
- Find the note-making system that works for you: is it annotated slides, Cornell notes, pattern notes, concept, or mind maps? You may need a different system for different courses and parts of courses, and it may take some experimenting with each to learn when to use which.
- Integrate note-making into your study routine. Ask yourself how the upcoming class fits with the rest of the content of your course. Check in more depth what the new class will be about and review any required key reading(s) and any class material.
- Note the important things: key words and main ideas, any meaningful structure (headings, subheadings, etc.), references, things to look up later, and any questions or comments you have. Leave space for any additions you may want, or need, to make afterwards. This way, you will not have to rewrite your notes. Do not worry about details, as you can get them later from readings, class material or watching key parts of the pre-recorded class again.
- Personalise your style: draw, colour code, use images, develop your own abbreviation code. Anything goes as long as it helps you remember and understand the material.
- Develop a filing system: From what class, when, which course? Label clearly so you can use your notes later.
- Add value and details: fill in any gaps, follow up your questions, summarise the key points.
- Do not be afraid to be critical and selective: in order to learn, you need to know what information is important, why it is important, and link it to what you already know. The point of notes is not to be exhaustive of every detail, but to be a solid platform onto which you build your understanding.
- Experiment, and do not feel you have to get it right first try. Note-making, especially in a class setting, takes practice. Allow yourself time to learn and develop.
Have a look at the Study Hub Making notes in class page for more ideas and tips for making effective notes.