Note taking Strategies
Note taking strategies that are appropriate for most anthropology courses include pre-class preparation strategies, organizational formats like the Cornell approach and REAP, and reviewing and reorganizing notes (D. Applegate, CAL). Each of these strategies is described in this section.
Pre-Class Preparation Strategies
Preparing for each lecture is an excellent way to improve the quality and quantity of your notes for nearly any class, and anthropology courses are no exception. Preparing ahead of time makes the material more familiar to you, making it easier to identify important information, maintain attention, follow the direction of the lecture, and understand the concepts covered. Here are suggested ways to prepare for class in order to enhance notetaking.
Read the Book
Be sure to do the required readings before they are to be covered in class. If the reading assignments are not listed on the syllabus, check with the instructor. If the readings are on reserve at the school library, it is important to set aside time well in advance of when the readings will be covered.
Specific reading strategies you might try for anthropology courses are discussed elsewhere in this page.
Review Notes from Previous Days
Without question, part of your anthropology preparation time should be devoted to reviewing notes from prior lectures before each new class. When you review previous notes for a week, a chapter, or a unit, you are enhancing your ability to see relationships among information and to tie ideas together.
A later section of this page gives specific strategies for reviewing lecture notes.
Make a List of Questions
To focus your attention and enhance your ability to identify important information during an anthropology lecture, take a list of questions with you to class.
The questions can cover material covered in prior classes - anything you didn't understand or anything that interested you about which you would like to learn more. Or, the questions can cover material to be covered in class that day - what was unclear in the readings or didn't seem to relate to the main topics of the class.
Some textbooks have review questions at the end of each chapter that may be copied or xeroxed and taken to class. Listen for answers to these questions and record that material in your notes. If there are no review questions in the book, try turning the chapter headings into questions. For journal articles, try phrasing the hypotheses or headings into questions.
For courses that require you to record descriptions and labels for illustrations during class - cultural anthropology courses dealing with kinship or physical anthropology courses in human anatomy for instance - you might try xeroxing these illustrations from the reading to take to class.
Make a copy of the illustrations for a chapter or article. Cut it out from the text and white out any labels. Then enlarge this template on the copier. You now have a blank illustration with plenty of room to record notes.
Xeroxing the illustrations will help you keep up with anthropology lectures and reduce anxiety about your artistic ability. Chances are that the information you record on xeroxed illustrations will be more legible and easier to decipher as you review your notes after class.
Xerox Term Lists
Anthropology courses in which a lot of vocabulary words are introduced during lectures - such as introductory cultural or physical anthropology courses - can pose a challenge to students who have trouble spelling, keeping up with notetaking, or recognizing unfamiliar terms. One way to deal with this is to xerox or compile term lists to take to lecture.
Before the material is covered in class, go through the readings and compile a list of bold-face or italicized words that you might hear during lecture. If the text book has a vocabulary list at the end of each chapter, you can simply xerox it to take to class. The glossary could also be xeroxed and taken to class, but this is usually less desirable since the words are arranged alphabetically rather than topically.
Prepare a Template
The final pre-class preparation strategy that aids in notetaking is preparing a notetaking template to take to class. Use the headings of the chapter or article to develop a template of the main ideas, leaving space between each idea where you can record your notes during lecture.
The advantage of this strategy is that it helps you to organize your notes and to identify important information presented in class. One disadvantage is that the instructor may not cover everything presented in the readings, in which case it will probably be necessary to recopy your notes after class.
There are a number of organizational formats one may use to record lecture notes during class; these are described at length and illustrated in the Note taking page of the General Purpose Learning Strategies stack. A popular format for notetaking that is easily applied to anthropology courses is the Cornell method.
The Cornell method involves drawing a vertical line to divide notebook paper into two columns. The right-hand column should be wide enough for recording the lecture notes. The left-hand column or "recall column" is about one to two inches wide and is used to record key words, dates, and names.
Illustrated below is a page of cultural anthropology notes recorded in the Cornell format (M. Hartman, CAL).
REAP is an organizational format for notetaking that may be used in most anthropology courses. It requires the use of a three-ring binder or a spiral notebook for taking notes. The strategy combines memory strategies and association with notetaking.
While the REAP strategy is described in detail in the Note taking page of the General Purpose Learning Strategies main stack, the basics are outlined here. To use the strategy, open your notebook so two pages are showing. Class notes are recorded on the right-hand page. Divide the left-hand page into two columns using a vertical line. The first column is used to record memory triggers for specific pieces of information in the notes, while the second column is for recording REAP words, or words that help you Relate the material to your life, Extend the material to the outside world, Actualize the material by noting how it might work in the world, or consider how you might Profit from the information.
Illustrated below is an example of physical anthropology notes recorded in the REAP format (D. Applegate, CAL).
Reviewing and Reorganizing
A key strategy for anthropology notetaking is reviewing and reorganizing. Periodic reviews greatly enhance your understanding and retention of the material presented in lecture. Without frequent reviews, you will probably forget half of the lecture material in a matter of hours. To avoid this, you need frequent reviews using information organized in a manner that makes sense to you - maybe a formal outline if you are a sequential learner or a series of webs if you are more random.
There are several options for reviewing your anthropology lecture notes.
If necessary, reorganize your notes using a method that is appropriate to your learning style or the nature of the anthropology course. The Cornell method and the REAP method have been suggested already. Other organizational formats, which are illustrated with anthropology material in the Information Organization section of this page, include outlines, webs, and flash cards.