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The backbone of most college classes is the lecture. Done properly, the lecture is an efficient and interesting method of acquiring knowledge. But lectures come in all sizes and shapes and forms.. Your job as a student is not only to pull the important information out of each lecture (no matter how well or how poorly conceived it may be), but also to find some system to record and retrieve the material for tests that will inevitably appear later. This means you must develop a meaningful and adaptable system for taking notes. Lecture notes will serve to refresh your memory. In addition, good note taking will help you focus your attention and sustain your interest while you follow the lecture. Indeed, lecture note taking is a study habit you must learn and master.
Your lecture note taking skills can be improved by the tips described below:
1. Prepare yourself for a positive classroom experience. Arrive early, sit toward the front, and have the proper materials. Be eager and ready to explore new intellectual territory.
2. Before the lecture begins, briefly review your notes from the previous lecture. This “mini-review” will put you in the right frame of mind, remind you of where you have been, help you anticipate where you will go, and, at the same time, warm up your thinking muscles.
3. Your notes for the lecture should be titled and dated. Use only one side of the paper.
4. When you begin taking notes, keep three guide words in mind: legibility, clarity, and accuracy. Your purpose for taking notes is to develop a review format that can be easily read, that can be easily understood, and that will spark your memory so you can recall the key points of a lecture.
5. Although there are a number of different note taking systems, the one that most students use successfully is outlining. Simply employ the standard outline form, including major headings, sub-points, and subsequent details or examples.
6. Don’t worry if your notes don’t adhere to a strict outline format. After all, the speaker may not have arranged the lecture in a neat outline form. The point to remember is to use the outline mode of thinking to arrange groups of related ideas and sequence the development of major concepts. This process will help you impose order on a lecture even when the lecturer isn’t highly organized.
7. Of course you will have to take into consideration that your notes are taken under the “rapid fire” conditions of a lecture. This means that you can take some liberties with the format as well as some shortcuts:
8. Stay with the speaker from beginning to end, but don’t try to take everything down word-for-word. Listen for main ideas, key words, and indicators that are signposts for important (memorable) information: “finally,” “three things to support this idea,” “keep in mind,” “in addition to,” “consider the following,” “note that,” “ in other words,” etc.
9. Leave wide margins for corrections, your comments, and additional notes later. Also, at various points allow yourself blank space that you can use for an after class summary of what you have heard.
10. Be alert for signals that indicate important information. For example, if the teacher writes something on the board—a sentence, date, diagram, etc.—take it down in your notes; if the teacher makes a point to repeat something, take it down in your notes; if the teacher gets excited about a point, take it down in your notes.
11. Soon after the lecture, review your notes. This is the time to edit and fill in incomplete areas. Use this review also to highlight (underline or use a highlight marker) major points in your notes. If you missed something during the lecture, this is the opportunity to search out and complete the missing information. Many successful students make an effort to recreate the lecture in their minds.
12. At numerous points during the quarter or semester, take some time to arrive at a broad perspective of where you are going in each of your classes. In other words, try to piece together the lectures. Each lecture should be like a mosaic piece that fits into a larger picture forming the direction of the class.
Consider the Dual Notes System: Divide your notebook page into two columns. Take lecture notes on one side and on the other outline the corresponding section from your textbook. When you study for tests, this Dual Notes system places class and textbook notes side by side. See Textbook Note Taking