Good advise for note taking
Find your personal style
It is an indispensable help for yourself to take notes while you are reading. It sharpens your understanding of the material and makes it easier for you to remember and maintain your newly acquired knowledge.
You probably have your own way of taking notes. This is fine. In fact, it is important to find your own style of note taking, as one technique may work for you, while it may not work for someone else. Here, we will give you some great tips that may inspire you to improve on your personal note taking technique.
Consider the purpose of your notes
You can benefit from using different methods of note taking, depending on what you need them for. The traditional way is where you write down highlights and themes as you read. This method is particularly good when noting your own questions and reactions to the text, which we mention in ”3 good methods for academic reading”
Another great note taking technique is mind mapping, which you may know from other contexts. Mind mapping is more of a visual note taking technique, in which you write down key words in bubbles, which you connect to others. It is especially useful when you need an overview of the themes in the text, their connection and how they relate to themes from other materials you have read.
Consider how long you need to keep your notes
If you expect to use your notes again at a later semester, it is a good idea to post process them. If half a year passes before you read your notes again, you may find it hard to recall the knowledge that you had when you wrote them.
Look through your notes critically and decide how you can improve their durability. You may have to add explanations and draw parallels to alternative material that you remember. Here, a mind map is a great tool to use.
Where to take your notes
Some prefer pen to paper, others on laptops or other devices. Each method has its pros and cons, and you have probably already figured out what works best for you. If you prefer paper, you may know the challenge of finding your notes when you need them again. Paper notes require keen attention to structuring and archiving. Therefore, invest some time and energy in making an excellent system for them.
Notes directly in the books
By taking notes directly in the books, either in the margins or on coloured stickers, you can easily find the passages you took notes to. However, it can be a mess to uphold the overview of this type of notes, and you may find it very difficult to find your notes when you need them. This method is therefore better suited as a supplement, but is hardly useful as your primary note system.
Many students naturally take notes on a computer, which of course has some obvious advantages. It is easy to archive digital notes, and quick to find them when you need them. It still requires attention to keeping them neatly organised. Consider using dedicated software for note taking that can assist you, and can be linked to your e-mail account and smart devices. In that way you always have your notes at hand, even if you did not bring your computer, and you can easily attach e-mails that are relevant to the material you are taking notes for.