Saturday, 15 December 2012

How To Study : Taking Notes

Good note taking is a key study skill that should not be neglected.
Source: Austin Hackney (author)

Note Taking as a Powerful Study Technique
Right at the outset one of the key skills that any student needs to develop, especially if you haven't been a student for a number of years, is how to take notes.
Taking notes is not just a way of keeping a memo - it is a powerful study technique in itself.
So, before we look into how to do it, let's just make something clear: note taking is essential for 99% of students if they want to achieve academic success.
You may hear of exceptional people and the odd genius who has no need for note-taking, revision or seemingly any study at all - but for most of us it is necessary to our learning.
Keeping your notes properly organized and 
filed is very important and should not be neglected.
Source: Austin Hackney
Now. Let's just dispel a myth: a lot of people shy away from good note taking because they think it is time-consuming and boring. Well, it doesn't have to be. It can be an integral, effective and enjoyable part of your study experience.
Why Take Notes?
So why take notes?
·         If you are note taking, you are engaging actively with the material you are studying, be that reading a book, listening to a lecture, watching a video or participating in a tutorial.
·         When you come to do your revision, your notes help you rapidly identify key points and what is most significant in your study module.
·         Reading back through notes that are written in your own voice and using your own style and vocabulary often makes learning easier than trawling back through a text book.
·         Making notes aids memory and recall.
So, I hope you are convinced that note taking is important. But you must also realise that just scribbling down anything or even worse, everything that you read or hear is not going to help.
There are certain 'secrets' or specialised techniques regarding how to take notes that you should understand. Let's take a look at them.
How to Take Notes
If it's a lecture or tutorial, either live or on video, then the lecturer will actually be giving you clues as to what are the salient points to take down in you notes.

For example:
·         Bullet points or quotations displayed on an OHP or whiteboard or powerpoint presentation.
·         Facts, figures etc. that are frequently repeated.
·         Listen out for the amount of time and emphasis that is given to a particular point or question.
·         Pay particular attention to any summing up and conclusion at the end of a lecture.
·         In reading, look for subheadings, info boxes, summaries and highlighted text.
Another important point in learning how to take notes effectively is to develop your own style and format.
Note Taking and Your Learning Style
When note taking, pay particular attention to formulae and diagrams.
Source: Austin Hackney
Everyone has their own learning style and you should trust yourself to discover how you can best interact with the material. That said, there are some general guidelines which apply to most students:
·         Keep your notes short and to the point.
·         If you develop a system of abbreviations and symbols ensure that you are consistent with their usage.
·         Use your own natural vocabulary as far as possible
·         Take special care to note formulae and specific definitions
·         Use layout - such as flow diagrams, bullet points etc. to help you quickly locate and follow your notes later.
·         Keep your notes in order and try to check back through them the same day that you take them.
Don't be deceived into thinking that because you immediately understand something you will easily remember it. That is simply not the case. Your notes will help you recall and reinforce everything you learn, even if you already understand it.
Use an ordered and logical system, write your notes up afterwards, use coloured pens, highlighters and other visual aids.
Make sure that you take your notes in proper notebooks and file them carefully, don't just use scraps of paper.
I hope these hints and tips will help you learn how to take notes effectively and aid your learning.
Check out Bud's Easy Note Taking System for a complete how-to guide to note taking, or another very useful guide is Study Skills: Tools for Active Learning (see My Picks below)
You can get some great tools (stationary, notebooks, coloured pens, organisers etc.) from your local store or just have them delivered to your door via Amazon.

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