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Learning Skills and Strategies

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Note Taking

The Importance of Note Taking

Ever since you decided to go to college, everyone has impressed upon you the importance of good note taking. Did you ever wonder why? Stop for a moment and think of a few reasons why you think note taking is important. When you have a few in mind, read the following list, which gives some of the major reasons why note taking is important. Note the items on this list that aren't on your list. Whenever you feel discouraged about taking notes in class, remember this list and the importance that good note taking has for you as a student.

  1. It keeps you attentive and focuses your concentration in class.

Before you can take a good set of notes, you must hear, understand and put the material in your own words.

  1. It is a memory aid.

It is entirely possible for you to memorize all the main points of a lecture, but you would need an excellent memory to do this for all your classes. Writing key words and points in your notes can trigger your memory to start a flow of ideas that might not have been released.

  1. Sometimes the instructor may be your only source for important information.

Often, class lectures are more than just a summary of the textbook. The lecture provides extended learning about what is in the textbook. Lectures are important sources of information, because they more fully analyze and explain the material in the text. This information is important, not only in terms of learning, but also in terms of testing.

  1. It helps you prepare for exams.

In the lectures, you discover the aspects of the course which are most important to the instructor. These aspects usually show up on exams. Note whether your instructor focuses on understanding concepts, or whether he or she is more concerned with the memorization of detail. Knowing what is important to your instructor will usually help you in predicting the kinds of questions that could show up on a test.

  1. It helps you to review the material presented.

Review is an important part of study, and taking notes in class simplifies this exercise. Trying to review lecture material from memory is a large task, but is unnecessary if you take good notes.

  1. It improves your self-image.

When you take a good set of notes, you'll have feelings of satisfaction and power that come from doing a good job. It also helps you feel confident in yourself, and in your ability to handle tough college courses.

 

How Well Do You Take Notes?

How well do you take notes? Would you like some fresh ideas about how to write better notes? The documents below can help! The documents give detailed information and tips for the note taking process.

The Cornell Method

The Cornell method of note taking is best for understanding key ideas and relationships.

What Does it Look Like?

It involves drawing a horizontal line 2 inches from the bottom of the paper, then drawing a vertical line, 2 1/2 inches from the left edge of the paper, from the top to the 2 inch bottom line of every page.  Lecture notes are written on the right hand side of the paper.  The area to the left of the line is used to write main ideas, prompts and sample questions.  The left-hand column should be filled in when a student reviews his/her notes.

Advantages

  • Results in more organized notes
  • Allows students to quickly identify key words and key concepts from a lecture
  • Helps to remember and connect relationships between topics
  • Can be easily used as a study guide for exam preparation
  • Aesthetically pleasing and easy to scan (useful for visual learners)

Disadvantages

  • Requires the student to closely follow the lecture
  • Daily review of notes is essential

The following video is a helpful tutorial on how to take Cornell notes.

Mapping Method

The Mapping method is best for visualizing connected topics and ideas.  It presents information in a graphic way using either "mind-map", "concept map" or "flowchart" techniques.  This style typically uses the pen and paper method, however, a tablet with appropriate software can be used also.

What Does it Look Like?

The page is organized by topic. The main topics branch out into subtopics with detailed information about each.

Note: You do not have to be an incredible artist to utilize the mapping method!  You can include as many images as you want.  Also, it's up to you as to how simple or complex your notes are.

Advantages

  • Helps visual learners orient their information
  • Allows notes to be easily organized
  • Assists students in making connections
  • Relationships can be illustrated quickly and accurately, by connecting various branches with arrows, or enclosing them in boxes or circles.
  • They can also include diagrams, drawings and references to other maps

Disadvantages

  • Not all information is easily presented in graphic format
  • Post-class time is needed to organize notes
 
The following video is an introduction to the visual mapping method.

 

This video is a great resource to explain what visual note taking is and how it works.

Outline Method

The Outline method of note taking is best for easily creating study questions for review. 

What Does it Look Like?

Each section starts with a heading of the main topic. Each subtopic and supporting fact is written underneath the proper heading.

This method of note taking outlines details presented during class.  It outlines important concepts, theories, facts, principles, arguments, examples, evidence, and anecdotes.  It shows the content and main points of lectures and also shows the relationship between points.

Advantages

  • Helpful for material that is highly structured or as a way of organizing information
  • Can include personal reactions, analysis, and questions
  • Reviewing can be as simple as turning main points into questions
  • Does not require speed or great detail in writing
  • Facts are organized and easily reviewed

Disadvantages

  • Difficult to use in science and mathematical courses because those courses need more of an ability to show sequential relationships than outlining offers
  • Courses with fast-paced lectures may also be difficult to outline, partially because outlining requires the note-taker to think about organization

The Charting Method

The Charting method of note taking is best for reviewing a lot of facts. This style of note taking can use either the traditional pen and paper method or a laptop or tablet by using appropriate software.

What Does it Look Like?

The page is divided into columns labeled by category. The details for each category are filled in the rows below.

Advantages

  • Facts are organized and easy to review
  • Highlights key pieces of information for each topic
  • Helps pull out the most relevant information
  • Reduces the amount of writing necessary
  • Provides easy review for memorizing facts and studying comparisons and relationships

Disadvantages

  • Can be a hard system to learn and use
  • Students need to know the content that will be covered during the lecture before it begins

If you rely heavily on your devices (laptops, tablets, etc.), there are a variety of tools and/or apps that are available to assist you with your studying. The following tools and/or apps are not endorsed by Red Deer College. Therefore, before installing any of the listed tools and/or apps, please ensure you have carefully considered their purpose for personal use.

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