Boston — This should begin in the classroom and in preparation for your studies. In order to retain what you are learning in class, you have to take down notes.
For some classes, it’s required that you take notes.
Some quizzes and exams are open-note, so you want to always be prepared for those opportunities but also have them on hand when you need them.
Here are some effective methods to master note-taking for both in-person and online classes to ensure you are embodying student success.
The Cornell notes method, named after a Cornell University professor, entails dividing your paper into three sections. Take notes in the right column using bullet points and abbreviations, write down any keywords or things you want to remember in the left, and leave the bottom section blank until you're studying outside of the classroom. Then, simply write a brief summary of your notes to ensure you understand the main idea.
Make boxes and charts
Organizing your notes with boxes and charts is similar to mind mapping, but it is better for displaying information in chronological order. Divide your notes into sections, then draw boxes around them and connect them with arrows if necessary. This method also leaves plenty of room for decorative elements such as drawings or stickers.
Charts can also help you read your notes in a more concise manner, allowing you to read concepts more quickly. However, they are not the best at showing how topics relate to one another and do not always work for equation-based notes like topics in mathematics, so use this method in conjunction with other note-taking methods.
You can get creative with bullets. Instead of using the traditional circular shape, try using starts or dashes. You can even get creative with spacing to be visually appealing to you when referring back to them during study sessions. Bulleted lists can be a clean, concise way of outlining the notes you’ve taken.
Color-coding your class notes will make them more visually appealing and easier to study! Purchase a pack of different-colored gel pens and color-code each section of your notes: pink for important vocabulary, green for examples, blue for section titles, and so on throughout the units you are working on throughout your classes.
Figure out if typing or handwriting is best
Many schools provide students with laptops, so one of the first decisions you may have to make is whether to take notes on a blank Google doc or the more traditional way of putting pen to paper.
Depending on the class, sometimes there isn’t an option. However, if you do have the option, it is nice to have flexibility in your note-taking.
If you prefer using Google Drive to take notes, consider changing the page's base color in the page setup settings for a more tolerable note-taking experience.
If you type up your class notes on a computer, print a copy of them so you can review them without tiring your eyes out from staring at your computer screen. Plus, you can always manually write on the printed sheet!
To stay consistent, stick to one method and the strategies that prove to help you focus better. It’s worth experimenting with different note-taking styles to boost your academic success.
Trinity Alicia (she/her/hers) is a Boston-based journalist. Follow her on Twitter: @trinityaliciaa
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett