If you want to be a good learner, then you need to be good at retaining information. No matter how excellent you are at memorization, the only way to retain details is by taking notes. Unfortunately, there is no universal way of doing this, which means that it can be a struggle for many students.
So, with that in mind, we want to share some quick tips for note-taking. Whether you’re going to high school, college, or graduate school, it’s never too late to improve your methods. Got your materials handy? Let’s dive in.
Step One: Mindset is Everything
First and foremost, if you hate taking notes, then no strategy will work for you. Instead, you’ll have to change your attitude so that these tactics will take hold. It’s all too easy to be negative and pessimistic. Unfortunately, that mindset will lead to failure.
Step Two: Do Some Research
If you’re taking a class about ancient history, then you know that some of the topics will be empires like Egypt and Rome. If you’re taking economics, then you should know a little bit about the concept of supply and demand.
Overall, you don’t want to walk into a class unprepared. Look over the syllabus, do any required reading, or do a cursory online search. Studies show that students who read the material before class retained the information better than those who didn’t.
Step Three: Find the Path That Works For You
Not all note-taking strategies will work for everyone. We highly recommend experimenting with these options until you find one that sticks. Also, keep in mind that one method may work better for some classes, but not others. Once you find a strategy you like, don’t assume that you have to stick with it forever.
Here are the most common note-taking methods.
In this case, you create a structured outline of the course material. There are headings, subheadings, and then detailed information below them. This article can serve as an example of an outlined page. Outlining is best for classes with linear details and structure.
This strategy is similar to outlining, but there are also sections for “cues” and a summary at the bottom. Cues are reminders to yourself of what information to remember. It can be a snippet of a larger section. The summary is an overview of the topic, covering all of the primary details.
When a topic is broad or abstract, outlining won’t work as well. Instead, you might want to try mapping. In this case, you start with the primary topic in the center and then draw lines to subtopics. Subtopics can be related to each other, or they can split off into separate branches. Typically, mapping enables you to see the bigger picture while also spotting more intricate details.
Finally, if you have to take notes that will be memorized, it helps to create a chart. The chart will have rows and columns like a spreadsheet. Each row will be a new topic, and the columns should be organized to present details linearly. Feel free to add and subtract sections as you see fit.
Once you master note-taking, learning will be much easier and more accessible. Again, be sure to experiment to find the process that works best for you, and see how well it helps your education.