General Tips and Note taking Strategies
The following general suggestions are adapted from Dr. Taylor Stults of the History Department at Muskingum College.
Consider General Trends
Find the main ideas of the course. Keep in mind the objectives and goals of the course while studying. These should be outlined in the syllabus. Use common sense.
What to Remember
The four main things to focus on in most history classes are as follows. These four foci should guide you as you read the book, take notes, and prepare for tests.
Know what happened, when it happened, and who was involved.
Know why it happened.
Know why it happened in a certain way and not in other ways.
And know what the significance, consequences, or results were.
Keep up with the assignments. Attend all classes regularly. Discuss material with the instructor outside of class.
Draw conclusions from tables and diagrams presented in class or in the book. Form your own opinions on important points. Take an active part in class. Raise questions in class. Stay awake in class - get your sleep somewhere else. Discuss the information with the instructor or with other students.
Be able to illustrate general concepts or trends with examples. Think up new examples of all general principles. Make a concise list of terms or possible questions that you think might be on the test. Use study guides to summarize the material to be covered on the test. Work with classmates summarizing and organizing the material, processing information, and pretesting. More test preparation strategies are presented elsewhere in this section.
Dedicate yourself to do the best you can and to work diligently. Have a positive attitude about the course, and focus on the aspects you like about it.
Note taking Strategies
Textbook Note taking
Strategies for taking notes from history textbook readings are covered under Margin Notes and Reading Grid in the Reading Strategies section of this page.
Lecture Note taking
The Cornell method is an effective format for recording history notes. Key terms, people, dates, policies, laws, and concepts are written in the left-hand recall column. Details and explanations are written in the right-hand column. An example of history notes recorded in the Cornell format is given below.
It is important to review history notes periodically. Check the notes for accuracy and completeness after each class with classmates or using the book. Review the main ideas of each major topic, chapter, or unit as it is completed. Rewrite or reorganize the notes if necessary.