Taking Notes

Be Active

According to Dr. Martin Simpson the most important thing about note taking is being active rather than passive. A lot of people just do passive note-taking such as highlighting. Active note-taking means to interact with the material as you are taking them. Take in-class notes and then notes after class. Go through the notes the day of and try to make sense of them. He suggests using the Cornell system.

Cornell note taking system

Step 1: Preparation

On loose-leaf paper draw a vertical line 2.5 inches from the left side of the page. Take notes in the right hand column. Later, key words and phrases can go in the left hand column, known as the recall column.

Step 2: During the Lecture

Capture general ideas in paragraph form. Skips lines to indicate the end of ideas or thoughts. Use abbreviations to save time.

Step 3: After the Lecture

In the recall column jot down the general terms and phrases from the lecture. Next, reread the notes and reflect in your own words. Cover up the right hand column and recite the general ideas and concepts of the lecture.

(source: Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center)

Beware of PowerPoint Presentations

They are great if you understand the subject matter. They are seductive in making students think they are taking notes. They have the feeling that they have done something but in actuality they have just been fed information. Most students will need to have a good active note-taking ability. You will remember things better when you take active notes. This also helps to improve your time management skills. In addition, test anxiety can go away, because you remember the material better.