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How To Write Efficient And Organized Lecture Notes

 Here are a few tips on how you can write better and more organized notes!

Before the lecture, I usually read through the chapters in the textbook, which are going to be talked about in the lecture. Then I am prepared on the material that I will learn in class, and it is a great way to get a general overview of what you are expected to know afterwards. I also note down questions if I read anything that I do not quite understand or I want to know more about for the lecture.

During the lecture, I take notes on my computer. Yes, I know that studies show it is better to write notes by hand for better comprehension of the material, but that does not work for me simply because the lectures are so fast pace that I cannot write anything understandable by hand that fast - therefore I take notes on my computer.

I usually focus on writing down what the lecturer is saying, rather than copying the information from the presentation. The presentation usually only has bullet points that do not make a lot of sense on their own, so I "ignore" the presentation notes so that my notes from the lecture will make sense to me when I read them again later. However, I do have one class where they do not post the presentations before or after the lecture, and then I have to choose if I want to mainly focus on the notes on the presentation or on what the lecturer is saying. For this particular class, I choose to focus on the presentation, because the most important information is on there, but if you ever end up in that situation, you have to decide what works best for you.

Organization-wise, I make folders for each of my classes (I keep them on my desktop, so they are easily available), and in the class folders, I have folders for lectures, assignments, practice problems etc. If you use your computer for school it is important to keep everything organized so it will be easy to find your documents later.

When I get home, I pull up my lecture notes, as well as the presentation and the textbook, to rewrite my notes in my notebook. Rewriting notes will actually help you retain the information from your lecture better, and now I have the time to write my notes neatly. The first thing I do before I begin taking notes is to write down my weekly goals in that class, and any assignments that are due that week. I colour coordinate my notes -  Every week I use a new colour, so when I am going to revise the notes later, I can easily find everything since it is neat and organized.

I start off with reading through the chapters (again) before I begin taking notes. When I rewrite my notes I mainly focus on the textbook and then I look at the lecture notes/presentation to fill in any missing information. From the textbook, I mainly note down important terms, and information that is highlighted. Then I look to my lecture notes and the lecture presentation to check if there is anything to add to what I noted down from the textbook.

I do have one class where there is no textbook. I still follow the same steps as written previously for taking notes in this class, however, I mainly emphasize my notes on the presentation from the lecture, and then fill in information from my lecture notes.

When working on notes (or anything school related for that matter), it is important to take breaks. I work maximum two hours without a break, but usually, I work between thirty minutes to an hour at a time, and then take a ten- to fifteen-minute break. Taking breaks will let your brain (and hand) rest for a bit, and keeps your motivation and quality of work up. To stay focused I set my phone and computer on "do not disturb"-mode, and I use the app "Forest" to keep me off my phone when I am studying.

This type of note-taking-system works for me, and I find very effective and efficient. It may seem like you are doing double the work, but reorganizing and rewriting notes makes life easier for you when exams are creeping closer, and you can think of it as "mini revision", where you take the time to see if you completely understood the lecture - maybe even figure out what you need to work on more. You will have a neat and organized system in your notes when it is actually time for revision, and it will overall save you from unnecessary amounts of stress.

 

- Sandra

 

 

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