Unless you have a photographic memory, note-taking will be a part of your life. Rather than scrambling through a messy scrawl the week before finals to try and figure out what you wrote, try these tips to get everything down.
1. Evaluate the class.
It's important to evaluate the type of class so you can choose a note-taking method to fit your needs. Does your teacher fill three chalk boards with chemistry diagrams? You might want to opt for a tablet to take pictures or a notebook to ensure you can fit all the different types of notation.
2. Organize your notes.
There are many different ways to organize your notes. Some people like topic outlines while some like sentence outlines. Some like the rigid structure of a Harvard outline and others find serial outlines more helpful. Find out what works easier and most efficiently for you.
3. Establish a shorthand.
We've done this with texting by abbreviating words to make things more efficient. There are some common examples: TBD = to be determined, RR = read and review, TT = test topic, etc.
4. Include pictures and diagrams.
Whenever possible be sure to include pictures, diagrams, arrows and other visuals to keep you focused and organized. Check out this video, which provides more creative ideas on how to take notes and organize notebooks.
5. Underline key points.
Underlining or highlighting key points helps to outline focus areas of study. It also organizes notes in order of reference. For instance, you can color-code your highlighters for things you know, things you need to review and things that completely confuse you.
6. Use note-taking apps
If you do decide to take notes on a laptop or tablet, you probably want to do it on a multi-functional application that allows you to take notes and include pictures and diagrams. Good note-taking apps include Google Docs, Microsoft OneNote and Evernote.
7. Re-write your notes.
This one might be a little time-consuming and annoying, but if you straighten out and re-write those notes that are illegible, not only will it be a form of studying and review, but you will have a tidy notebook that will be less daunting to look at when a test or finals come around.
Using these tips will not only help you to straighten out your notebook, it will also help you build discipline in keeping order. Start small with keeping a tidy notebook and before you know it, you'll re-file your computer and clean your dorm room.
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