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What is the best way to take notes in a class?

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Austin’s Answer

Hi Kendra,

Great question!! Note taking is a large part of college and you will spend the majority of your time in lecture classes taking notes on what the professor says. Because of this, it is really important that you develop a method that allows you to take the best notes possible. I personally found that I was best able to take notes via paper and pencil. Many professors allow you to bring your laptop to class but this is a total trap. Most people who brought in their laptop would be on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter during class and really would be neither focused on what the professor was saying nor would take good notes. It's just too tempting to look at funny cat videos instead of paying attention to what is being said in class. After my first year of school I would always leave my laptop at home and would bring my notebook to class.

Hand writing notes is really great as the process of writing things down is proven to enable better retention of information. There is something with writing things down that allows your brain to retain that information longer than if you were to type your notes. Also, since there is no way that you can write down everything the professor says you will be forced to write only the most important things that are said. It is really easy to type everything that the professor says but this does you no help and you will just end up having pages and pages of notes with no idea what is important. My hand would definitely get tired writing things down and trying to keep up with the professor, but I would always come out of class with a few pages of top-notch notes instead of a novel of typed notes.

Also, try and develop a system of shorthand for your notes. Because hand writing is slow, I developed my method of shorthand and acronyms to aid me in taking notes. For example:

Intl= International WWII= World War Two

C=China CvJW= Sino-Japanese War

J=Japan C'sD change: S-->Z-->Q= China's Dynastic Change: Shang, Zhou, Qin

(I think you get an idea of what I studied in College)

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck!!



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Tyler’s Answer

Hi Kendra,

I wanted to provide another perspective on top of Austin's great answer above.

The best way to take notes is the way that will best help you to learn the material and study for the exam. For a lot of folks, that will be paper and pencil, but a number of people also find that they can study best when they use a computer for note-taking. Personally, I found a lot of value from using my laptop and keeping notes in a note taking application such as Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. These programs let you keep all of your notes in a single location that can then be searched later on when you have a question or want to review what you learned in a specific class.

Austin also brings up a great point though that using a computer opens you up to a lot of opportunities for distractions, so making sure that you exhibit good self control and stay focused on note taking is important. There are also applications you can use that will restrict your internet access during certain hours to help you stay focused. I've included a link to a list of those applications in the next steps below.

If nothing else, try a couple of different methods to find what works for you and stick with it!

Tyler recommends the following next steps:

Test out paper and pencil notetaking strategies and see how well you remember material from class. Some example strategies can be found here: https://www.goconqr.com/en/examtime/blog/4-note-taking-strategies/
Try taking notes using a computer and a note taking application such as Evernote (https://evernote.com/) or Microsoft OneNote (https://www.onenote.com/download)
If you find yourself getting distracted while taking notes with a computer, use an internet restriction application (http://mediashift.org/2017/03/got-productivity-groove-back-internet-restriction-apps/) to help keep you on task

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Yamile’s Answer

Austin and Tyler have great points. Some of my professors uploaded their powerpoints online and I was able to print them out before class and follow along nicely. An advantage of this was that I did not struggle as much to keep up with the pace of the professor and was able to write down things that the prof did not include in the notes but just said aloud. Before I started printing out notes prior to class I noticed that I would often miss information the professor would say because I was only focused on making sure I wrote everything down from the slides. For the other classes that did not offer notes prior to class, pencil and paper worked best for me because a laptop definitely distracted me. I slowly learned to pick the most vital information to write down and if I had any questions the profs were always willing to help. Try out what method works best for you and good luck!

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Snow (Xue)’s Answer

Learning from my own experience, taking good notes is so important to help my study for the exams and to efficiently manage my time. Regarding of the best way to take notes, it really depends on your preference and how you learn best. In my opinion, there is no such a best way to take notes. Some people like to write them down using pencils and notebooks. Others like to type notes on their computers. Personally, I like to write the notes down using pencils and notebooks because when I write them down, it strengthens my memory and understanding about what the teachers say in the class. Hope this helps!