One of the most important things that any college student needs to learn, and will hopefully begin to learn early in their college experience, is what note taking method works best for them. Everyone is different, and different subjects lend themselves to different methods of note taking. As important as the note taking methods are in and of themselves, knowing how to organize those notes for the most effective and productive studying is equally important.
The most common way by which students choose to take notes for most classes is by using a spiral notebook. They are much lighter and less bulky than the old fashioned three ring binders. The nice thing is that they take up less space in a book bag and are more self contained, so they are really more practical for taking notes in the class room. Once a student leaves the classroom, however, figuring out how best to organize those notes for studying can be a bit of a challenge. A three ring binder is an ideal way to keep things organized.
Things to do to make organizing notes easier –
*Always put the date on the your class notes. This will help you when you go to compare your notes with what is listed on the class syllabus.
*Be sure to differentiate between class notes, reading notes, discussion notes and notes you may take in a science or math lab.
*Use colored flags as a way to mark pages that are especially important.
*Be sure you create subheadings when taking notes so that you know exactly what was being discussed in your class lectures. This will make it possible to group related things together when you are organizing your notes after class or during the course of the semester.
What to do with the notes you do take –
*Typing up your notes –
Everyone has their own way to keep their notes or to organize them. Some students will want to type up their notes on the computer. This may give them the chance to flesh out things that were discussed in class. By doing this, as soon after class as possible, everything will be very fresh in your mind and you can be sure to add anything you may have missed when you were taking the notes in class.
Typing notes may also be a good way by which to combine reading notes, lecture notes and discussion notes so that it’s not necessary to refer to a bunch of separate notes when studying. Repetition is a good way to reinforce the material you’ve read, heard or taken notes on without having to memorize things. It also forces you to think about the material in different ways, something that isn’t possible when you are taking notes and focused on listening to what the professor is saying. A three ring binder is the perfect way to keep notes well organized. The binder will allow you to move things around if necessary.
*Dividing different topics, units, themes or issues –
If the class has specific different topics that will be discussed, consider purchasing dividers so that you can keep the notes for each topic separated. You might also want to have a divider to separate review notes from the rest of your notes. You may also want to figure out a way to keep notes from the first half of the semester separated from those from the second half of the semester.
*Highlight important information –
If you type up your notes on the computer, consider highlighting things that are especially important. You can do this if you type the notes up in a word processing program. You can even choose different colors to indicate different things you will need to know. Likewise, you can use a highlighter to highlight hand written notes. Be sure to indicate any material that may not be on a test, and if the professor indicates that something will definitely be on the test, highlight that and indicate that it is especially important.
The best way to organize your notes is to make sure that you keep everything together. Determine what works best for you in terms of highlighting, flagging, color coding or marking information to indicate that it is important. Be sure to date your notes and indicate what book you are taking reading notes from when you do take reading notes. The students who are most successful in college are not those who are studying every minute that they aren’t in class: the best students are those who keep up with their work, attend their classes and review and organize their notes on a regular basis. By doing this, they are in effect studying as they are organizing, and they are making it much easier to find anything they need to study whenever they need to study it.