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The Do's and Don'ts of Note-Taking

Advice on How to Take Stellar Notes

It's getting to be that time of year again. Binders, paper, pens, notebooks, etc.—all on sale. But back-to-school is also a good time to start establishing techniques to help your academic self succeed. Here I will outline the basic do's and don'ts so you can begin the year taking exceptional notes.

1. Do - Take notes.

It may seem self explanatory, but there are many students who do not feel that taking notes is necessary. Regardless of your brain capacity, there is no way that you are going to remember everything that your professor says. Therefore, taking notes is necessary to help you keep track of the key content given in the lecture. In addition, if you take notes, you are more likely to pay attention to the information.

2. Don't - Write Everything

One of the biggest mistakes students make when it comes to notetaking is they try to write down everything their professor is saying. Not only does this give you a terrible hand cramp, it is unnecessary. It is not crucial to copy the lecture verbatim to understand the content discussed. When students try to copy the lecture word-for-word, they not only get caught behind, they do not give their full attention. Therefore, the information is not being lodged in the brain.

3. Do - Write in your own words.

Writing notes in your own words is one of the best ways to make sure that you understand the information. Anyone can copy down what someone is saying, but when you put it in your own words, it allows you to make sense of the content in a way that works best for you. It is also an easier way to help remember the information. A little strategy for if you don't understand the content: write down what the professor is saying in their words and figure out after class what they meant by it (either by asking or spending some time going over it yourself). After you are able to understand what was meant, translate it into your own words.

4. Do - Add your own comments.

Leaning is not just memorizing what the professor is saying. It is about critical thought. If the lecture inspires, persuades, or gives you any ideas on the topic, write those down as well. This is a good way to help you prepare for papers and exams. The purpose of these assignments is to get you to think critically; therefore, you are one step ahead.

5. Don't - Get Left Behind

If you miss something, don't worry. Do not try and ask the person next to you what was said or try to copy your notes. This takes time and means that you will miss the next part of the lecture as well. Leave a small space in your notes so you know that you missed something and ask about it at the end of class.

6. Don't - Use a laptop.

Studies show that when students handwrite their notes they retain more information than if they type them on their laptop. It is also becoming common for professors to not allow students to use electronic devices in their classrooms. Now, there are certain circumstances where a computer must be used, but for the majority of the student population, handwritten notes are the way to go.

7. Do - Use a pen.

Once you graduate grade, eight pencils should only be used for math class. Pens have many advantages to their graphite counterparts. First of all, pens glide across the paper smoother. This means that you are able to write faster and get more of the important information. The most important reason to use pens however, is pens are permanent. Students who use pencil risk smudging to the point where their notes are ineligible. This is a fatal mistake to make especially on an exam.

8. Do - Develop a shorthand.

No, you don't have to go out an actually learn shorthand but use something that works for you. Develop acronyms or symbols that allow you to get the information down faster. As long as you know what they mean that is all that matters.

9. Do - Take notes from readings.

Notetaking is not only a skill for when you are in lecture. It is just as important to take notes when you are completing your required readings. This material just as likely to appear on an exam and is usually supplementary to what was discussed in lecture. Taking notes on this material saves you having to re-read everything when exams come.

10. Don't - Give Up

Take notes all throughout the year. Everything is fair game for an exam, so establish a good notetaking ethic early and keep to it throughout the year. Find techniques and styles that work best for you. This is a great way to increase your success in your classes.

11. Don't - Stress

Learning is supposed to be an enjoyable experience. Do not let taking notes get you stressed out. After a few tries, you come fairly good at picking out the important information; the content worthy of being written down. Chances are, if you missed something that was vital to the course, it will come up again. Whether it being in another lecture, or in a friend's notes when you study together.

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The Do's and Don'ts of Note-Taking
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