#B2SwithJen | Note Taking Tips


Although we all hate to see the summer come and go, back to school season is right around the corner! Personally, I love learning which is why Back to School season always gets me so excited! Currently, I am taking a summer semester at my school to fast track, so technically it is not much of "Back to School" for me, because I am in school, but I've put together a few note taking tips for all of you, which have benefited me through my university career.

DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that everyone has different learning styles. What works for me may or may not work for you. Nevertheless, I do feel confident that with my note taking strategies have worked wonders for me, in my academic career as a student. Also, I go to a Technology school, so some of my resources (School Laptop, Wireless Internet on Campus, etc.) which I use for my education may not be accessible to others. Not in any way am I saying you need to go out and buy expensive technology to take good notes; it is just primarily how I take my lecture notes. No worries, though, for those of you who do not want to go out and buy a laptop/iPad because I will also include alternatives to my methods in the post below.

Digital Notes vs. Hand Written Notes

Because we live in a digital era, it is sometimes very hard to decide whether or not you should type up your notes digitally or traditionally hand write them. Below, I have composed some pros and cons on both: 


Depending on your learning style, you may prefer one over the other and that is totally fine. It is great to know your learning style because many people throughout their schooling still have no clue what benefits them best in attaining information. 

Personally, when taking lecture notes, I do a mixture of both hand writing and digitally typing up my notes. I will discuss further into how I do this later in the post.

Note Taking Tips 

Below, I have put together a few tips which may help you! Whether you are typing up your notes or handwriting them, you are able to utilize these methods. 
  • Organization - It is very important that your notes stay organized. Not only does that mean your notes are neat, but also that you can tell each lecture's notes apart form one another. How I do this is by ensuring I have included the Date, Course Code and Course Title, Professor/Instructor, and the Lecture number, followed by the name of the lecture. Under that, I will include a section which states the main themes of this lecture. This section does not necessarily need to be filled in at the beginning of the lecture, but instead I like to make the section and fill it in as the lecture progresses. Here, I state all the main topics of the lecture. I like to do this so I know which lecture notes to refer back to while studying for exams. 
  • Important Information Only! - When taking notes in class, it is important that you do not write down everything your professor says. If you do this, you may fall behind in the lecture and miss out on something really important, while trying to write down something not so important. Instead, try to focus on listening to the lecture and deciding whether or not your professor may create a question on the exam concerning this information. NOTE: If your professor spends half an hour on one slide, going deeply into detail, chances are, this information is going to be on the exam in some way or another, so write that down! 
  • Color Coordinate - I know many people like to do this, but I tend to do it a bit differently. Instead of color coordinating throughout my notes to make a mess of color, I tend to pick one color which I primarily use through out the notes to add a pop of color. One week may be blue, the next may be green, followed by pink, etc. Whenever there is something important I need to remember or it is a main theme or idea, I will use the color I picked for that lecture to highlight the points. It is not only useful when skimming, but also a bit easier on the eyes, instead of a rainbow mess. 

My Note-Taking Method 

As I said earlier, I like to use a method which I use both handwriting and typing up my notes. To do this, my iPad and Laptop both during class simultaneously syncing through the school's Wireless Internet. 

iPad Mini 2

Lenovo Thinkpad T520

At my university, since it is a technology school, all of my professors upload the lecture slides before class begins. When the lecture is uploaded on Blackboard (our school's dashboard which Professors provide assignments, lecture slides, discussions, messages, etc for students), I "Print" the lecture slides onto Microsoft OneNote then sync it. By doing this, I will be able to access the lecture slides on my iPad through the Microsoft OneNote app.

After, I will go on my iPad, open up the OneNote app and tada, the lecture slides will be there. On OneNote, I can annotate my lectures. If my professor says something important, I can circle or highlight it. If there is an important point my professor says, I can write it right on top of the lecture slide. It is basically as if I am printing a paper copy of the lecture and handwriting on the lecture, except this is all digital.

For example:



After class is finished, I will type up all of my notes, examples, etc. onto a Microsoft Word document, so that it looks more organized for I need to study for exams. It is important to note that I do not write down everything on the slide. I read through the slides and find the important points to record only. I do this because it will be a lot easier to study a condensed 5 page lecture review than trying to memorize information from a 70 slide lecture Power Point. What's the point of turning it into a Word document if is has the same exact information from the Power Point?



Alternative: 

If you do not have an iPad/Tablet or Laptop, you easily could do the same with paper and pens. Instead of annotating on a tablet, print our your lecture slides and annotate with pens and markers. When you are finished annotating, hand write your notes to be neater and easier to reference to during exam time. 

If you do not have access to your lecture slides at all and still have the hand write notes, I'd suggest to focus specifically on my tips I talked about earlier. Make sure you leave a space for an overview of what your notes will be about and fill it out throughout the lecture; only write down the main ideas, main definitions, main concepts, etc.; write down ONE example for each concept which you think will help you the most understand the ideas and themes; and most importantly don't think your notes in class need to be perfect. Use short terms, use one color when first writing them during class, use your messy fast writing AS LONG AS YOU CAN READ IT LATER. Then use these notes, after class, and hand write them neatly, adding in your colors and full words, so you can reference them later.

Just a reminder that my method works for me, but it may not necessarily work for everyone else. The easiest way to take notes is to find what works for you and is the most productive for you. 

What are some of your favorite tips for note taking?


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