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Taking Notes And Reading

Formatting Your Notes

When taking notes in lecture, there is no perfect format to follow. Ways of taking notes are as varied as the people who take them. There are, however, some general formatting rules to follow that will greatly improve the quality and usefulness of your notes, whatever style you choose.

Rule 1. Don’t cram too much information into small spaces.  Paper is one of the cheapest things you will purchase in college, so don’t be afraid to use lots of it. Your notes will be much easier to read and work with if you leave sufficient space between ideas.

Rule 2. Leave room in your notes for supplementary information. When you study your notes after lecture and compare the professor’s discussion of an idea with what’s in the textbook, you will often find it useful to add diagrams or additional commentary. Be sure to leave room for this information while taking your notes in class.

Rule 3. Include questions about ideas you don’t understand. If something the professor says in class doesn’t make sense as you take notes, be sure to include a question mark or partial sentence to remind yourself that this idea needs clarification. That way you will remember to look up this information in the text-book, or ask the professor directly.

Rule 4. Don’t try to be a perfect artist in class.  The diagrams and graphic images the professor uses in lecture were probably made by a professional. Indeed, many of these images can probably be found in your textbook. Don’t waste time attempting detailed renditions of them during lecture. Rather, make simple versions and then refine those drawings as you study your notes.

Rule 5. Some students find it useful to recopy their notes after class, or even type them up.  While this activity does take extra time, it is a good way to catch mistakes, review the lecture material, and begin the process of studying repeatedly.  If you opt for this helpful note-taking strategy, then be sure to build sufficient time into your study schedule for it.

 


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