Note taking can be a rather time-consuming activity, but it is something you have to get used to if you’re a student. You need to be able to take notes on books and articles that you read, so as to be able to consolidate what you have been told in lectures and seminars. Notes come in handy when you have exams to revise for and need to re-familiarise yourself with ideas and concepts that you have learned about over the year. You will probably spend quite a bit of time writing notes and so it is worth trying to improve your note-taking skills, as this will help you to use your time in a productive way.
There tends to be two types of note takers. One type will simply jot down terms, dates or events without elaborating on the meaning or significance of them, so that when they re-read their notes, they discover that what they’ve written down isn’t particularly useful. The other type will make a note of every single thing, fearing that they might miss an important point if they don’t. However, this leaves them with quite a few notes to re-read and they can’t always pick out the relevant pieces of information they need to know. Thus, if you fall into either of these categories you have to find a way to redress the balance.
It helps to consider what the purpose of your note taking is. If you are planning to write an essay you obviously have to make take quite thorough notes, as you will probably end up quoting academics and you need to be specific and to be able to reference the points you make. If, however, you are revising for an exam you have to break up the information you need to know into chunks so that it is more memorable and stays in your head. There is no point noting down whole quotations that you’re unlikely to remember when you’re sat in an examination hall.
You need to have confidence in your own understanding of the material you’re studying. If you come across a complicated concept you might be tempted to write your notes in greater depth, fearing that you may miss out key elements of the explanation. However, this won’t help you when you come to re-read your notes, as you really have to understand what you’re reading in the first place and translate it into notes that make sense to you. After all, the notes you take are for your own benefit and so it is up to you how you approach note taking, as long as you are confident that you have enough information written down to help you with your studies.