By Laura LaVacca
Effective note-taking is a necessary skill that many students overlook. A one-size fits all approach does not apply since students are different learners and may be more visual learners or auditory.
It may take a few tries to figure out the most effective method but trial-error is worth it. If you are struggling on quizzes or tests, then it’s certainly time to switch up your note-taking routine.
There are different schools of thought on this subject. One of the better-known strategies is the “Cornell Method.” This involves using a sheet of paper with a margin. The left of the margin is used to take notes while topics/headings are written in the margin. The wide space at the bottom of the paper is reserved for summarizing topics overall. This method relies on key words and phrases being jotted down in an effort to be concise and save time as a teacher is speaking during class.
“Using bullet points and abbreviations works for me,” Danielle Caprio, freshman at Adelphi University, notes “For examples, b/c for because and w/ for with.”
A traditional outline method may be something that students are more familiar with. This can be a well-organized system if done right. It reduces readings and lectures down to main points. The disadvantage, however, is that it is quite time consuming. In a classroom setting when a teacher is speaking quickly, this may be too much for students to organize. This is better reserved for review texts at home or re-writing lecture notes in a more organized format.
“I find that re-writing my notes at home in an outline format helps me study,” freshman Christina Rodriguez explains, “I also like to outline any assigned readings. I’ll then reduce those down even further into mini-outlines and put them on index cards.”
For those of us who are simply not organized, the mapping method may work best. This method involves drawing webs or a chain of circles to visually map lectures. This method is easy to edit or amend by adding numbers, question marks, arrows or even colors. One disadvantage is the amount of paper you may go through since the web may take up a lot of space.
Adelphi Freshman Tiffany Drakes concurs, “I like to write what the professor says by using shapes, bubble quotes and a lot of highlighting. Overall, it must be visual and colorful.”
Deciding how to organize your notes is just one part of the battle. The medium you use to take those notes is another part. In this day and age, students aren’t just using plain ‘ole paper and pen. They have the choice of every device including iPads, laptops, iPhones or even voice recording apps.
“I take notes on my laptop and like to put important things in bold. I prefer to type because I’m not the best speller and I like that I am able to hit backspace instead of crossing things out,” Adelphi Freshman Gabrielle McDonald asserts.
Freshman Maria F. piggy-backs, “I find that typing is much neater. It’s easier to print out my notes and I’m a fast typer — more times than not I find myself getting all the information my professor says when typing rather than physically writing it on paper.”
Having trouble deciding? Perhaps the style of note-taking you choose to adopt depends on the content of the class.
“When it comes to being a nursing major, there are many notes in every class. My first day, I brought a notebook and pen and I didn’t’ take one full note because my professor went way too fast for me,” Amy Vesey continues, “The next day, I brought my computer and used PowerPoint to jot notes down.”
Briana Corredor, freshman, also judges based on content: “If it a subject I have no previous knowledge on, I record the professor.”
Perhaps different note-taking methods should be used for different classes. Perhaps a combination of all of them is what you need to be successful. No matter the strategy, it’s important for students to figure out what works for them and to do so rather quickly. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it- – but if it’s broke, fix it quickly.