Many of you have been in college or are in college currently, some of you may be in high school and if so then good on you for getting an early start. Either way you understand how important note taking can be. Not only is it imperative to your understanding but it is arguably the best way to pass a course/class and may make you a better employee in the future! Now every course is different and the way you take notes will be different but overall the rules and guidelines should always follow suit.
1.Stay focused! That means put your phone down, ignore your friend if you sit next to them and/or shutting off the internet on your laptop or tablet. The only thing that should be open on any device is a text editor (emacs, word, notepad, etc.) Usually I will recommend hand written notes first then typing them out to organize them, regardless don’t worry about making them pretty right now. In my case I can write faster than type but if you are the opposite then do that, either way just worry about taking the info in and getting it down on paper!
*as a side note if you are writing on paper make sure you are writing in a legible color and of course make sure you know what you are writing, if you abbreviate and don’t know what your abbreviations mean then it’s a wash.
2. Word for word is your enemy, I think it goes without saying and it may seem a little backwards but if you are spending every moment of the class on every word the professor is saying then you will get behind… THEY CAN SPEAK FASTER THAN YOU WRITE. This also goes for writing every word down on the slides! The best thing you can do is summarize, put it into your own words which not only helps you move along with the lecture and notes but it forms an understanding in your mind which makes recalling it easier. Word for word only works when the professor goes “off the record” and gives a piece of information that either makes the subject easier or is information he forgot to add to the slide. Usually the words, “This will be on the test” is a good indication of importance!
3. Organization is key, “But Robb, you said don’t worry about organization!” While that is correct, it is important to organize them later, or even better if you have the time to do so, right after class! Make sure you split the notes up with headings while you are writing so you have the context to organize them later. This can even be as easy as highlighting important aspects as you go or noting a change in subjects with bullet points or dashes. Another tip would be to start each lecture on a different page, this will separate everything for you even further. This will also help if you are cramming for an exam the night before and are avoiding pulling an all-nighter, almost like you are helping out future you by separating the important test information from the rest of the fluff.
4. Think about the context, this is a big one in my opinion. Not only is it important so you know why the teacher is focusing on it but it will also help you form a connection of that information to the subject. This can be done in several ways, a lot of times the teacher will flow through the notes and emphasis the subject. Or a good thing to do before the lecture, do the optional readings, look at the assignment for the week or if the slides are available read them! A lot of times printing them out with a section to write notes is helpful. As long as you are able to connect the information you are writing down to the overall picture, that is your main goal.
5. Visually Map the notes! This is ultimately going to connect the dots even further. If you can visually take the notes from your computer or notebook and map them out from one main point to another it will smooth it all out for you. This works for anything you are taking too! You can practice this with programming languages to history papers, I only say that because I started using it in my history undergrad and I now use it learning to program. This thinking can be effective anywhere as well, you can use this for deciding what car to get or what to do next with your budding startup, this is one of those forever methods.