Posted on 9th September 2012
Notes on Notes
The new academic year is now in full swing and your books and folders are probably already starting to fill up with lots of information on the topics you are studying this term. As the weeks go on, you’ll be writing swathes and swathes of notes, and it is vital that you adopt good note-taking practice. Here are some tips to help you out…
1. Invest in some good writing materials. You don’t need to have a very expensive fountain pen, but a blunt pencil and the back of an envelope simply won’t do. A lot of stationers do student discounts, so nip over to a shop and grab yourself some lined paper, a few pens, a ruler and some highlighters and you’ll be good to go.
2. Don’t try and write down absolutely everything as it’s impossible. You’ll also have no time to think about what you’re writing and you will probably get behind and then miss things and become frustrated.
3. Instead, write down what you think are key bits of information that you might need to know later, and any questions that arise in your mind throughout the lecture/class. Dates, facts, names of people and places, important texts, vital theories, pros and cons of arguments, key quotations are all things that might make the cut and end up in your notes. If you do have questions, try and follow these up later.
4. Be as accurate as possible. If you’re not sure how an author’s name is spelt or if the date of the battle was 1767 or 1776, then ask the lecturer/teacher at the end. If you are taking notes from a book, make sure you write down the author, title and page number of the quotation you are noting down. You may also want to write down which library you found it in, so that if you need to get it again, you won’t have to search for hours on end.
5. Make your notes as clear as possible. It is totally pointless writing down notes if you can’t understand them later. Make sure you write neatly and leave enough space between everything. Underline, highlight and use different colours if that helps.
6. Find a system that works for you: maybe mind-maps are your thing, or lists, or diagrams with annotations. Try a few different ways out and then see what you prefer. Or maybe you like a bit of variety.
7. File them away neatly. There’s no point writing glorious notes if you end up losing them. Have different folders for each topic/module and when you get a chance, put the notes in there and put keep them in order.
8. Read over them regularly. If you leave them untouched for months and months it’ll be harder to revise from them when the exams come around to bite you. A quick glance through your notes every now and again will help the knowledge seep in.
Good luck! Hopefully now you’ll always have impressive notes. If you feel you need more advice on study skills then don’t hesitate to get in touch.