The Workshop --
Research indicates that learning is most effective when notes are written by hand. Discover strategies for creating a notebook that is well organized and notes that will help you succeed academically by attending this workshop. Questions may be sent to Jane Currie (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Researchers have found that we learn more from taking notes when we write them by hand than when we use a laptop.
Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer conducted three studies in which they collected these findings. They published their research in an academic journal, Psychological Science, in 2014. Pam Mueller is at Princeton University; Daniel Oppenheimer is at UCLA.
Your notes should include:
Pertinent, new information – Identify what’s pertinent through reviewing summary or objectives listed in the syllabus, presented at the beginning of the lecture, or indicated in the reading’s introduction; existing knowledge need not be written down
Questions – Note your questions about things not understood, gaps in the content that need to be filled in, or content that seems to be inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise problematic
Connections – Note relationships between current content and that learned earlier or elsewhere
Ideas – Note topics that might be developed into an upcoming project, paper, or other activity
Clues – Note statements or inferences regarding upcoming assignments or exams as well as how this content may be applied later
Illustrations – Note examples, stories, or visual cues that might aid in retention and recall
To make your notes efficient, consider:
Dating – So that you can refer back to content covered during a particular period of time
Skipping lines – To allow more content to be added later
Leaving wide margins – Also to allow more content to be added later
Labeling – To categorize content
Highlighting, underlining, emboldening – To make key concepts stand out
Indexing – To make it easier to locate notes by topic later (save space for index pages at the front or back of a notebook; number pages in the notebook as you fill them)
Strategically review your notes:
Within one day of class – Return to your notes and identify things you missed and questions you need to ask
With a classmate – Look for someone who is also taking careful notes; suggest that you compare notes from time to time so that you can contrast what you thought was important with what s/he did (note that this can also become someone you can ask for notes should you ever need to miss class)
Before the next class – Anticipate what will be covered by reviewing content leading up to the current class period
When the information becomes pertinent again – Such as before starting a class with that one as a prerequisite, when studying for a comprehensive exam, when starting a new research project related to the content covered in the notes
Walter Pauk, a professor of education at Cornell University, developed the Cornell Method for note taking in the 1950s. Subsequent research has documented its efficacy when students need to recall content from their notes at a later date.
In the Cornell Method the page is divided into sections:
The advantages of the Cornell Method really become apparent when you need to study your notes.
When studying later, spend most of your time reading the cue columns and summaries; look to the notes only when your memory fails you such that the cue column and/or summary content do not make sense.
Test yourself: Cover the notes and turn the cue column content into questions; ask yourself whether you can recreate the notes only through cue column prompts.
The library collection includes books that detail note taking strategies generally. The first title listed below is one such book. Others, such as the second listed book, are subject specific. A librarian can help you find these and other titles.
Dillon, Ann G. Making Connections: Study Skills, Reading, and Writing. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.
Freeman, Richard P. J. Study Skills for Psychology: Succeeding in Your Degree. London: Sage Publications, 2006.