Taking notes is important but it’s even more important to make sure they will be useful later on. If when you look back at your notes you can’t understand what the topic was or what the important information is, you’ve wasted your time. So here are some useful tips and tricks on how to take notes effectively.
We've put together a short video sharing some top tips for note-taking
What should I include?
- Details - Lecture title, date and name of the lecturer (for lectures and classes).
- Headings - Split into sections to make information easier to find.
- Key Words - Highlight these with different colours or highlighters. Note: NOT everything needs to be highlighted, despite the temptation.
- Structure - So you can navigate your notes easily. You could use: Numbers, bullet points, arrows etc.
- Mnemonic Triggers - Make your notes memorable by including a drawing or a cartoon. If it’s silly, funny or strange you’re more likely to remember it.
- Further Reading - Key people mentioned that you could read up on, further reading that will enlarge your perspective.
- Connections - How could these notes be used in your assignment? Do they relate to other modules?
Types of note-taking
Cornell notes encourage a more active note-taking process, rather than simply creating lists of information with little understanding. It requires you to engage analytically with your notes. So, for example, you could group your notes into ‘main points’, ‘notes and details’ and a summary section at the end.The main points highlight key themes and ideas, which are then expanded in the details section and the summary allows you to think about what you have learnt from the session.
Mindmaps offer an active and creative way to create and capture ideas. You put the main topic in the centre of a diagram and build up information around it.
You can use colours and pictures to make the notes more memorable. Tony Buzan’s (Buzan and Buzan, 1995) advice is to only put one word on a line to aid your thinking and understanding. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you need.