Taking good notes is more than just scribbling down what the teacher says. There is an art to it, and good note takers are able to pick out the important information and quickly transfer it into a layout that is easy to read later on and contains all the pertinent facts. Everyone can learn how to do this, and a few tips will help you streamline the process, making more efficient use of your class time and study sessions.
Nothing will slow you down more, and cause you to miss important information, than trying to write down every word the teacher says. The most crucial note-taking skill to learn is to separate the key points from the fluff. This is done by staying focused and alert and jotting down words and short phrases instead of lengthy sentences. Stick to the meat of the discussion and leave spaces around some of these shortened details so you can fill in the blanks later on. You can also listen for verbal clues from the teacher that a discussion point is of particular importance. For instance, instructors will often say things such as “there are nine parts to a cell,” or even something more direct like “now this is important,” so you know to add it to your notes.
Science courses are known for their diagrams, charts and tables, and it can be a challenge trying to copy these down while taking notes on the instructor’s lecture. To avoid this conflict, make a copy of the illustration before class to keep with your notes, or write your notes directly on this piece of paper. Oftentimes, these diagrams are already in the textbook, but if they’re not, ask your teacher if she has an original you can make a copy from. If neither of these options work, make a quick, rough sketch of the illustration, only adding the necessary details and filling the rest in later on.
Keeping your notes neat and organized can also help improve the overall experience for you. If your notes are sloppy, or in disarray, it’s going to be more difficult to study from them. One way to help maintain organization is to keep a notebook just for science notes, and start each day’s notes on a new page that has been dated and titled. Use neat handwriting so you don’t have to waste time later trying to decipher what you wrote, and stick with consistent abbreviation and punctuation use.
After class, spend some time reviewing and updating your notes while the information is fresh. Use this time to fill in any blanks, and if you don’t remember exactly what was said, that’s okay. Use your resources -- the teacher, classmates, textbook and even context clues -- to close the gaps. You should also consider recopying your notes, especially if they are hurried or disjointed. Doing this will solidify the information in your mind, as well as clean up your hard copy for studying later on.
About the Author
Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.
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