questionswhat is the best way to take notes?


I recommend that you take notes in some outline form, and don't fall prey to writing down everything the instructor says. Whenever you write, you are not listening, and you want to be able to focus. It's best to write (or print) your notes. This actually helps you to learn the information. It's why spelling words used to be written down at least three times, back when there was some purpose to teaching besides just passing standardized tests. Ooops. sorry...back off the soap box.

I expect that you are speaking of specific college courses, and that there are books involved. You've read the assigned material beforehand (I hope), and so should have some familiarity with what the instructor is saying. This differs of course, depending on the subject matter.

After you've taken your notes, part of what you should do when you are through for the day is to review them, and re-write them.

What category? Hard science, soft science, math, English...


The best way to take notes is by distraction. "Look! Over there!" you say. Then when they look you sneaky take their notes.


In the end, the best method is whatever works for you and helps you recall the key points of a lecture. Some people are visually oriented, and need to have something they can look at, while others may like to record a lecture and play it back later.

Some people outline, some don't. Some of the absolute worst students I ever knew spent an hour feverishly trying to copy down everything the instructor said, and just ended up with finger cramps and no understanding of what was important/unimportant. The most successful tended to take only a few notes on key points, then used them to go back to the books for details.


@sstaylor: That works especially well if you sit in the front row and take the instructor's notes.


@adadavis: Instructors are frequently too shrewd for such an obvious ploy. You may have to use "Look out! A leopard!", or "Look, they're awarding grants out in the hall!"


@sstaylor: Oh, I dunno. When I was teaching, a surprised: "Hey look! A streaker in the hall!" always worked for me. Of course, the joke was on the student, because there was nothing on the podium but a few blank papers and a couple of crossword puzzles. I didn't need notes.


High schools in America now are really pushing the Cornell method. I assume that's what you're talking about by dividing the paper into two. The left side is for main points and the right side is for more detailed notes.

I'm lucky to have a great memory and don't really need to take notes. The only reason I take notes is to have something to do in class and to make the professor happy. My school has weird professors that get "mad" when you sit around doing nothing even when you are passing their class with an A.


you need three things: 1) a laptop, 2) Dragon software, 3) a very good voice recorder. Instructions: sit at the front of the room, and the let your professor create your notes for you.


i've got to head out to class but i'll respond in a few (during my break i hope) to some of the points brought up. thanks for the responses so far.


sorry, i didn't get a chance to respond as i originally intended. school for 7-8 hours per day plus 3-4 hours spent in the library ... not much time for on-line activities of late.

@shrdlu: hard sciences: spinal and skeletal anatomy, systemic histology, peripheral nervous system, cell know, the fun stuff.

so far my process is take notes, read, review and complete assignments. as a kinesthetic learner, rewriting my notes will be the thing i do most.

@dpiercy85: i like that idea. presuming dragon naturally speaking takes some learning to get the right words correct, how did this work with mulitple professors/teachers? what was the learning time frame of the software?

@rabidmonkeyoncrack: thank you. cornell method is exactly what it's called. with 32 hours being taken (27 credits), not taking notes isn't an option. it'd be a quick exit of the curriculum if i were to NOT take notes. (there's just too much information).


hard sciences: spinal and skeletal anatomy, systemic histology, peripheral nervous system, cell know, the fun stuff.

@jockovonred: Those are some serious classes. Does this imply pre-med? It seems so to me.

I still strongly recommend the physical note taking, pointing out that the dragon software will rob you of that cemented learning that note taking provides. The "cornell" method seems like yet another fad to me. If the outline style I suggested doesn't work for your for initial note taking, it will still be very helpful as you recopy your notes. I have a decent background in neurophysiology (via cognitive science), and in learning in general.

Writing things as you thinking about them helps to move them out of ephemeral memory, as does repeating them to yourself, later, when you recopy your notes.

I may be back later, with more, if you like.


@jockovonred: 27 credits in the hard sciences would force me to take some notes. My memory would still work but probably only half as well as it normally does.
I'm taking 20 credits in the spring semester but I'm not worrying too much. I'll be taking notes anyway but I probably won't be looking at them after I write them.

@shrdlu: Cornell method advocates a bit of outlining in addition to dividing up the paper. I never really liked Cornell. My style of note taking is just to write whatever I feel is important and I'm capable of writing while still listening so it works out for me.