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Great Notetaking Tips

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 5 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Notes Notetaking Outline Highlighting

Most students know that taking notes is part of doing well in class and getting good marks, but not all students know how to take the best notes possible. Identifying notes, using an outline system, writing clearly, highlighting key points and reading notes in conjunction with other class materials can all help students save time when studying and better prepare for their exams.

Identifying Notes

Whether students take notes in notebooks, on computers or on loose sheets of paper they should always be sure to use some sort of identification so that they can easily see when the notes were taken and how the notes fit into the course as a whole. For some students, dating the notes according to the class or marking them with the number of the lecture (for example, Lecture 7 of 10) is a good way to keep notes in order.

Other students prefer to use an identification as well as mark done the general topic of the class (for example, Lecture 7 of 10 - Myths of the Ancient Greeks). Not only will these identification markers help students if their notes are ever disturbed, but they will help students see the natural flow of the class, when and how the subjects began and ended as well as how much time was spent on each subject. These can be important points to analyse when preparing for exams.

Using An Outline System

Many students prefer to use an outline system rather than try to write pages of paragraph-style notes. Some students prefer to use a formal outline with a variety of letters and numbers to organise their notes while others prefer to make up their own system as they go along.

Students should use whichever style feels most comfortable as long as they can clearly identify the main topics and subtopics of the materials. Students who are not confident in this style of notetaking during a lecture can practice by taking notes during their reading, or even while watching a television programme.

Writing Clearly

It should go without saying that writing clearly is necessary for taking good notes longhand. In fact, notes are entirely worthless if they can not be read and reviewed. However, some students find that spelling can be a problem when they handwrite notes, especially for jargon or technical terms with which they are not familiar. When students encounter words that they are not familiar with, making a notation of how the word sounds (for example, "sounds like Rom-a-don") and then writing in the correct spelling later is a good way to flag the word and learn it for the future.

Highlighting Key Points

No matter how a student chooses to take notes, highlighting the key points of the notes will help him or her focus on what (s)he needs to study later. Some students do this by underlining specific notes, some students do it by starring specific notes, some students do it by taking notes in different coloured inks and some students do it by using highlighters on specific notes.

It really does not matter how a student chooses to highlight their notes as long as they do choose to highlight and they highlight the most important points.

Reading Notes In Conjunction With Other Class Materials

A student's notes should not exist in a vacuum. This means that the notes should be studied in conjunction with other class materials. Reading through class notes and adding information from textbooks, taking notes on experiments and highlighting notes while looking through handouts or listening to lectures or presentations are all ways that a student's notes can become even more informative and useful for later study.

Taking good notes is usually a building block towards getting good marks. In order to develop the best notes possible students should consider identifying their notes, using an outline system, writing clearly, highlighting key points and reading notes in conjunction with other class materials.

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