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Note taking

Learning to take notes effectively will help improve your study and work habits and to remember important information. Often, students are deceived into thinking that because they understand everything that is said in class they will remember it. This is dead wrong! Write it down.

As you make notes, you will develop skill in selecting important material and in discarding unimportant material. The secret to developing this skill is practice, practice, practice. Check your results constantly. Strive to improve. Notes enable you to retain important facts and data and to develop an accurate means of arranging necessary information.

Note-taking tips

1. Don't write down everything that you read or hear. Be alert and attentive to the main points. Concentrate on the ‘meat’ of the subject and forget the trimmings.

2. Notes should consist of key words or very short sentences. If a speaker gets sidetracked it is often possible to go back and add further information.

3. Take accurate notes. You should usually use your own words, but try not to change the meaning. If you quote directly from an author, quote correctly.

4. Think a minute about your material before you start making notes. Don't take notes just to be taking notes! Take notes that will be valuable to you when you look over them again at a later date.

5. Have a uniform system of punctuation and abbreviation that will make sense to you. Use a skeleton outline and show importance by indenting. Leave lots of white space for later additions.

6. Omit descriptions and full explanations. Keep your notes short and to the point. Condense your material so you can grasp it rapidly.

7. Don't worry about missing a point. Make sure you are getting the most important points down and don’t worry if you miss something, you can always ask questions later to fill in the blanks or go to your text book.

8. Don't keep notes on oddly shaped pieces of paper. Keep notes in order and in one place.

9. Shortly after making your notes, go back and rework (not redo) your notes by adding extra points and spelling out unclear items – look things up in the text book.  

Remember: We forget rapidly, so budgeting time for this crucial step is important. You need to schedule time to review your notes after every class. The best time is right after the lecture while the information is still fresh. Schedule 30 minutes after each lecture to sit down with your text book and fill in the blanks of your notes and to elaborate on the topics discussed in the class.

10. Review your notes regularly. This is the only way to achieve lasting memory.

11. Flashcards are a great tool for some people. After each lecture make a set of flashcards for the important material from that lecture. Prepare one card for each definition or topic. Colour coding the cards helps some people to remember even better.

Now look at a proven method for taking effective notes, the Cornell Note-taking System.
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