Effective Note Taking

Taking better study notes all starts with the process of listening. Becoming a better listener is a talent, like any other, that can be developed through practice. The more involved one becomes in the process of listening, the better one can understand, prioritize and interrelate the concepts presented. Here are a few tips on your way to becoming a better listener in the classroom:

Active listeners focus on what the speaker is saying.

They try to find the important details, and ask themselves questions like "How does this relate to what we talked about yesterday or to what I read in the textbook?"

They think of personal examples that relate to what the speaker is saying.

They picture scenes being described, or draw diagrams in their notes for clarification.

They ask questions and participate in class discussion.

Part of your task as an active listener is to home in on key points and important supporting details, while filtering out unimportant trivia. Think of yourself as a detective with one of the richest sources of clues standing directly in front of you -- your teacher! Learn to pay attention to your teacher's body language and use of phrases that can tip you off when information is important and should be copied into your notes.

If a point isn't important, the teacher might be looking out the window or talking softly.

If a point is important, the teacher is probably at the front of the room, emphasizing the information in a raised voice.

The teacher repeats something several times, or writes it on the board

The teacher uses key phrases like, "The most important thing...," "The causes leading up to...," "Pay special attention to this...," or "There are four important points that I'll make about..."

Deciding what notes to take down and how to write them is more of an art form. Again, there are a number of helpful note taking techniques that can also be developed through practice.

Keep in mind

Don't try to write every word.

Do use your own form of shorthand, including abbreviations, symbols, diagrams and drawings.

Do not try to draw parallels between your own experience and knowledge and the lecture.

Look for a structure in your teacher lecture. If he or she says there were three main issues at stake in the Mughal Period, look for those three issues to be clearly defined, and listen for details about each one.

Try to review your notes as soon as you can after class, mark the most important points, and do a little reorganization if you need to, for instance drawing an arrow from a topic that belongs in a different spot than where you have it written.