So, here we go, Alyssa's Tips for Taking Notes!:
1. Decide when to take notes
I know that in middle school and early high school years, all of my teachers told us: okay, get out a piece of loose leaf, and write this down, and then they tell you exactly what to write down. In university, that doesn't happen. Nobody tells you when you should write stuff down.
That then begs the question, should you even take notes? I would say usually the answer to that is yes. Even if all your notes get provided for you in the form of PDF slides or whatever, I think it helps you stay focused and attentive to what your professor is saying.
2. Know whether or not slides will be provided
Most of my professors use Power Point slides in their classes, and most of them upload them onto some sort of online database (there are a lot of different ones) where you can view or download them.
If my professor uploads them before class, I try to print them out and bring them to class. If the prof uploads them after class, I write down the corresponding slide numbers next to notes I'm making in my notebook.
If I know the slides are being provided, I don't write down what is on the slide. It's just a waste of time, since you get all that information anyway. I only write down all the extra stuff - things the prof adds or says, or even maybe some things that are pointed out in class discussions (depending on the nature of the class).
3. Determine what to write down
It's a really good skill to know what is important to write down and what is not. I don't write down everything. If you write everything, you're not helping yourself at all.
But how do you figure out what's important? I think you kind of learn as you go, and it is also different depending on the class or professor. Here's some ways I use to determine what is important to write down:
- If a prof emphasizes something, or says something repeatedly, I write it down.
- Focus on big things. Key concepts, key terms, and summarizing sentences are good things to write down. A lot of little details can be left out. You don't want to go back to your notes after you've finished the course and say, "Why the heck did I write that down?"
- Always have at least on example written down, just to help with understanding later.
- A big thing for me is if the prof says something in a specific way that makes a light bulb of understanding go off in my head, then I make sure to write that down because I know it will help my understanding later.
4. Do what makes sense for you
I was going to say "be organized" but really, just organize your notes in a way that makes sense to your brain. Notes are not solely to record the information you need to know for exams, but they should help you in your understanding of course material.
I write and organize my notes in a certain way, but that doesn't mean everyone else will be the same. I also have my own system of abbreviation, because as soon as you write the entire word "environment" out you've missed something important the professor said. But really, you just want to be able to look at your notes later on and be able to say, "Okay, this helps, this makes sense." What you don't want to say is "What does this mean?"
What are your own personal tips for note-taking? How do you take notes? Do you use a computer or a pen and paper? (I prefer pen and paper, but sometimes profs talk SO FAST it's helpful to use a computer).