Tips for Effective Notetaking

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With the popularity of smart phones and laptops, most people no longer look to pen and paper to keep important notes, but this does not eliminate the need for the skill of notetaking. Taking notes is essential whether you are a student or a full-time employee, but you probably no longer know how to determine which information you should include if you can just highlight, copy and paste an entire paragraph.

Below are tips on how to take notes effectively whether it’s digital or pen and paper.

Notes are reminders only. One common mistake most people make when taking notes is that they look at it not as a supplement for learning but a primary source for information. Your primary source, however, come from the lectures or books. The whole point of taking notes is to remind you of the key points you might need later for an exam or a report.

Know how to look for key points. The key point is the main idea that is supported by other ideas. Looking for the key points will make it easier for you to understand the point of a lecture or a reading material. If you practice this often, you don’t even need to read the entire thing to know where to look for the main points. The key points could be words or phrases, so there’s no need to write down a paragraph in your notes.

Explain in simplest terms. You do not need to write down the full description or definition of a subject to understand it, because that just means you don’t know what it is in the first place. If you can explain the subject in one sentence, then write that down instead.

Supplement your notes. Do not just rely on your primary source when taking notes, because you can do additional research on the subject elsewhere. You can even ask the lecturer for references or a copy of other related topics which might help you.

Determine which information seems important to the lecturer. A speaker presents information with the aim to get all the important points across. This can be done in many ways, but you can observe the cadence (modulation of the voice) to see which ideas he/she emphasizes.

Drawings can help. Some people are able to retain information better through visual presentations, just like there are those who prefer listening or reading or observing. The act of writing alone is a form of kinesthetic learning which boosts certain parts of the brain. If you’re this type of learner, don’t be afraid to utilize drawings and charts in your notes. Use as many highlighters if you want and add cute doodles if it makes you feel relaxed. Your notes are your own after all.

Write down questions. You take notes not only to get answers but to be able to formulate questions based on what you have gathered. You can ask these during or after the lecture or even use them to expand you own report. Questions can serve as reference points for further research especially in broad topics.

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