Taking good notes and staying organized are two skills that will greatly help you with any university course. While there are lots of different systems, tips and tricks, here’s some things you can try out.
Use a clipboard for lecture notes, and keep a general “must-do” list and a general “to-do” list
Clipboards are a great place to take notes especially if you rewrite and paraphrase the notes later. They’re light , always give you something to write on, and let you leave your organized binders at home.
Another way to use your clipboard is creating a “must-do” list and a “to-do” list. A must-do list is broken up into the days of the week with the things that have to get done written under the day. For example, if you have a paper due for Tuesday morning finishing the paper would be under Monday on your must do list.
The second part of this is the “to-do” list. This is for things that have less demanding deadlines. So you might have an assignment in a class that hasn’t had its deadline set yet. But you could put it on your to do list to remind yourself to work on it a little bit at a time before the deadline comes up.
Try the Cornell note-taking system
This is a system that has been shown to help students who need to synthesize and apply what they’ve learned. So what is the system?
Here’s a diagram showing a Cornell page:
The Cornell note-taking system divides the page into three parts. The first part is the “Note Taking” section. In the note taking section you take down the important points of the lecture. Try to avoid writing in long sentences to save space.
The second part of the system is the “Keywords and Questions” section. This section should be about half as wide as the “Note Taking” section. In this space you’ll want to write down any important terms, questions you want to ask, or questions you think might be asked. This will really help you when you’re studying your notes.
The last section is the “Summary” section and it’s at the bottom of the page. Save about 5-7 lines of paper to re-write and summarize the notes and questions from the lecture. You’ll want to try to fill in this section within 24 hours of the lecture.
Here’s an example that I’ve made after watching a video on the colour of mirrors:
When reading your textbook, try SQ3R
SQ3R is a method for reading retention. Most students do two of these steps (Read and Review), but consider adding these other steps textbook studying routine.
S – Survey/Skim
Instead of jumping into your chapter and reading from start to finish, try skimming through it and reading the headings, section headings, and other key pieces. Use these to make questions about the text before you read it.
Q – Question
Now that you’ve gotten some specific questions, add some more general questions to your list. These can be questions like:
- What is this chapter about?
- How does this chapter relate to what I’ve learned?
- What has my prof said about this chapter?
R – Read
Just because you’ve skimmed the chapter and have written a list of good questions doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s time to actually read the chapter.
R – Recite/wRite
Take down the key points and try to answer your questions that you’ve written down. You can do this orally or by writing the answers. Whichever way you choose make sure to answer in your own words.
R – Review
When you finish the other steps, it’s time review. Test yourself on the key points and questions you wrote.