Staying Organised – choosing how to take notes

Nowadays, there are almost too many ways to take notes. That can add yet another dimension of stress to your studying, in wondering just how to record your work. But, the notes that you do take during your hours of studying will be crucial to how you ultimately perform in your exams and assignments. So, it’s important to consider what options you have available…

First of all, before launching into note-taking, it is important to establish what you will ultimately use them for. Are you making detailed notes, to use in a long essay? Do you need to record some sources and references? Are you taking notes to retain and learn the content immediately?

Once you have worked out what your purpose is, you can then decide on your most effective method.

Get typing!

This is probably today’s go-to method for most people. You can carry your laptop or tablet around campus and open it up during every seminar and lecture. It means that all of your notes are in one place, and it’s very easy to keep your work in order and organised.

When you come to writing up an assignment, you can use the ‘Ctrl + F’ function in your typed notes to find key information and references quickly when you need them.

You can also simultaneously use the internet as you are typing away, finding new sources and linking any additional reading that you would like to do in due course.

But remember, it is fundamental to back everything up. Use Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or Warwick’s own server, Warwick My Files. This means that if you lose or have a malfunction with your device, you still have everything to hand. Trust me, coffee spillages do break laptops!

Storing everything online also means that you can access your notes anywhere and everywhere. This saves you from having to take big books of notes from university to home, or wherever you may reside during the holidays.

Get writing!

While technology is now omnipresent in learning, there is definitely still a place for your pen and paper. In fact, being on the computer can be quite distracting as the internet is only ever a click away. What’s more, excessive screen use can cause many uncomfortable eye-related symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision and fatigue.

In fact, there have been numerous studies that have shown that those who take handwritten notes in lectures remember more than those who typed. There is one outlined here, by the Association of Physiological Science.

You can’t always write as fast as you can type, so writing requires you to thoroughly process the information you here and decide what is important enough to write down. You have to pay constant attention, otherwise, you will miss something.

There are various ways that you can improve your listening skills and focus in class. Going prepared, having done some initial reading is a great place to start. Arriving early so you can focus on is another one. And constantly reminding yourself of your goals cannot go amiss.

Get recording!

Some lecturers use software to capture a recording of the class, so it is available for students to revisit after attending the lecture. Warwick tends to use Echo360 for this. This means that you can catch up on anything you have missed, and you can often change the playback speed if that may help with your comprehension. Play and pause as you please, and in the comfort of wherever you study best.

But you may also choose to do a recording yourself. Many smartphones and other devices offer a Dictaphone feature whereby you can simply take a recording of whatever you want. If you don’t have a default app, you may want to download the Easy Voice Recorder. You may use this during classes which don’t use the lecture capture feature already, or perhaps to record small important segments of the lecture that you would like to revisit.

I also find dictaphones useful during revision. Reading out loud can be a great way for your brain to retain information. Of course, this applies mostly for audio learners rather than visual or kinaesthetic learners. It’s also a reason why teaching someone is a great way to learn something for yourself. If you record yourself saying a chunk of your revision notes, you can listen to them at your leisure, so you are really thinking about your subject.

Thus, the idea is to use a combination of all note-taking methods! Be flexible and explore your options in order to find a way that suits you perfectly. Don’t forget to check out 4 tips to take effective lecture notes to delve into your ideal method even more.

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