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Note taking is important because:
Before you can take a good set of notes, you must hear, understand, and put the material in your own words.
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.
Class lectures are more than just a summary of the textbook, providing extended learning about what is in the textbook. Lectures are important sources of information, because they more fully analyze and explain material.
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.
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.
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.
These documents have some fresh ideas about how to take better notes.
The Cornell method of note taking is best for understanding key ideas and relationships.
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 area at the bottom is used to write a summary, note any questions, and highlight concepts. These areas are to be filled in when reviewing your notes.
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)
Requires the student to closely follow the lecture
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.
The page is organized by topic. The main topics branch out into subtopics with detailed information about each.
Note: You don't 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.
This video is a great resource to explain what visual note taking is and how it works.
The Outline method of note taking is best for easily creating study questions for review.
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, such as 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.
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
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 with appropriate software.
The page is divided into columns labeled by category. The details for each category are filled in the rows below.
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
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
There are a variety of tools and apps that can assist you with note taking. We have tried and used some of them and others have come to our attention from faculty and students who have found them helpful.
Disclaimer: Red Deer College does not officially endorse the apps and sites listed here, and may not be held responsible for any technological problems that arise from their use. Please use at your own discretion.
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Red Deer College recognizes that our campus is situated on Treaty 7 land, the traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina and Stoney Nakoda peoples, and that the central Alberta region we serve falls under Treaty 6, traditional Métis, Cree and Saulteaux territory. We honour the First Peoples who have lived here since time immemorial, and we give thanks for the land where RDC sits. This is where we will strive to honour and transform our relationships with one another.
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