KEEP IT SIMPLE
Notes aren’t the textbook. They are a summary. All you want is to keep the key information. You want your notes to help recall key information when you look at them. Here are few ways to keep your notes simple:
- Write short sentences and stick to keywords
- Put your notes in your own words, the expectation be a good turn of phrase that helps you remember the information
- Adjust the layout of your notes to fit the subject and your needs
FIND A SYSTEM THAT WORKS FOR YOU
When taking notes there are lots of options: mind maps, flowcharts, flashcards, dot-points, tables, and the list goes on! Often how you represent information will depend on what you are trying to represent but it also depends on what works best for you. Find which style helps you best or invent your own!
USE CHAPTER SUMMARIES, DIAGRAMS AND CHARTS
Often courses come with a recommend textbook and these textbooks will have summaries, charts, and diagrams. These are incredibly useful tools that help you conceptualize, understand and memorize! Don’t ignore them and use them to enhance your notes and learning!
DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WITH OUTDATED TECHNIQUES
This very important re: productivity! For as long as we can remember it has been recommended to highlight, underline, and summarize information. A recent study undertaken by the Association of Psychological Science has examined the effectiveness of these, and as reported by the Times most of these are useless!
Highlighting and underlining led the authors’ list of ineffective learning strategies. Although they are common practices, studies show they offer no benefit beyond simply reading the text. Some research even indicates that highlighting can get in the way of learning; because it draws attention to individual facts, it may hamper the process of making connections and drawing inferences. Nearly as bad is the practice of rereading, a common exercise that is much less effective than some of the better techniques you can use. Lastly, summarizing, or writing down the main points contained in a text, can be helpful for those who are skilled at it, but again, there are far better ways to spend your study time. Highlighting, underlining, rereading and summarizing were all rated by the authors as being of “low utility.”
Being organized relates to the above point – don’t waste your time. The study by the Association of Psychological Science found that being organized, taking breaks and spreading out your study is much more effective! For more information on this see our section on How to study effectively.