General Note taking Tips, Science Illustrations and Note taking
General Note taking Strategies
Several strategies for improving notetaking skills in science courses are discussed here (REFERENCE).
Leave a two- to three-inch margin on the left side of the page, or buy law-ruled notebooks that have wide margins. Take notes in the wider, right side of the page. Use the left column to record key words, concepts or questions. The Cornell method is covered in more detail in the Note taking page of the General-Purpose Learning Strategies Main Stack. Shown below is an example of chemistry notes recorded in the Cornell format.
If you stop writing during lecture, you'll lose information from which to study. Or, you'll later make faulty assumptions from your notes, forgetting that they are incomplete. As soon as you lose track of the information given, put an asterisk (*) or a question mark in the margin of the notes. When you review you'll be alerted to seek additional clarification from the instructor, text book, teaching associate, tutor, or classmates.
Board and Overhead
If the instructor writes on the board or overhead and talks at the same time, you have to make a choice. Do you copy what's on the board or take notes on the lecture? In these cases, copy whatever's on the board or overhead. Your instructor or the book will provide necessary information later. Or you can work with a class mate, with one of you recording the lecture and the other the written material. If a tape recorder is used, the lecture may be noted after class. Try xeroxing illustrations before class and recording the details on them during class (see the Science Illustrations and Note taking section of this page).
As soon after class as possible, review the lecture notes. Write the names of the key terms, concepts, names or dates in the left column of your notes if you are using the Cornell format. Or, look at the notes as a series of answers to questions. Begin translating the answers into questions, recording the questions in the left column.
Asking questions is the key to learning in the sciences. As indicated above, approach the lecture notes as a series of answers to questions. If you can't think of a question for a section of notes, it means you don't understand or need more information on that section of notes. Don't leave the section blank, but put a "?" in the left-hand column and seek clarification from the instructor or book. As the course continues, the question-asking process will become more automatic. You'll find that you're writing questions during lecture as the instructor introduces new information.
Write the questions as soon after class as possible. If you generate questions while the information is still fresh, you'll find that the process of asking questions helps you focus on the essential material. Each time you go to lecture, your notes will become increasingly more organized. You won't have to work at organizing the notes. Since question-asking helps you understand things more clearly, you'll begin to anticipate the questions as the instructor shifts topics.
Write questions for all information recorded in the notes: names, terms, concepts, dates, numbers, symbols, formulas, and illustrations. An example for a Chemistry lecture is presented below; the notes are organized using the Cornell format, with a column for taking notes on the right and a recall column on the left (REFERENCE).
Science Illustrations and Note taking
An important component of most science courses is tables and illustrations (graphs, charts, photos, diagrams, etc.). Tables are often used to summarize numerical data. Illustrations provide graphical representations of terms and concepts.
When this information is discussed in class, it is sometimes difficult for students to both copy down the illustrations and tables and take notes on the instructor's explanations. To deal with this problem, students should try xeroxing and taking to class the tables and illustrations presented in the readings.
First, students should find out from the syllabus or instructor what readings will be covered in the upcoming lecture(s). Important tables and illustrations from those readings are then xeroxed. Small visual aids may be enlarged. Cut out the visual aids (including the captions and keys) so that the surrounding text may be discarded. Then center and recopy the cut-out illustrations to yield a 8.5 x 11 copy of each visual aid. The extra space around the table or illustration may be used for recording the instructor's explanations, labels, and other notes. If students use three-ring binders for their science courses, it is easy to integrate lecture notes and xeroxed illustrations.