Note taking responsibilities do not end once notes have been recorded. To be an effective note taker, one must get into the habit of reviewing notes soon after lectures and meetings.
Reviewing notes is necessary for a number of reasons. Reviewing allows one to identify unclear or incomplete information that must be clarified. Reviewing allows one to form questions to be asked in subsequent lectures or meetings. If notes are not reviewed, 70-80% of the information will be lost forever from memory and must be re-registered, taking extra time and effort (see the rates of memory loss section of the Memory page).
Reviewing notes has many advantages. It is an important first-step in exam preparation. Reviewing is a very time effective form of studying. It helps students understand the "big picture" of a lecture by tying together the specific points and details recorded in the notes. Reviewing allows one to make associations and see relationships among ideas presented over long periods of time.
Tips for effective reviewing of notes are listed below.
Three reviewing strategies are discussed in the following paragraphs: NoteSHRINK, NoteTALK, and NoteTHINK. Other strategies that aid in note reviewing are discussed elsewhere in this page: gleaning strategy, color coding, and tape recording.
The NoteSHRINK strategy (Bragstad and Mueller Stumpf, 1987) is used to shrink presentation notes down to their essence. It assumes that notes are recorded in the Cornell style, with a note column on the right and a recall or quiz column on the left.
The NoteTALK strategy (Bragstad and Mueller Stumpf, 1987) involves self-recitation in order to increase understanding of information and to commit information to memory. It is an extremely effective strategy for learning and remembering information. The strategy is used with the Cornell format of notetaking.
The NoteTHINK strategy (Bragstad and Mueller Stumpf, 1987) involves personalizing the new information in order to create interest and enhance remembering. For more information, see the Creating Interest section of the Motivation page and REAP strategy in this page.
Recopying and Reorganizing Notes
Recopying involves re-writing or keying notes to make them more neat, while reorganizing involves altering the order of information. Recopying and reorganizing notes permit students to actively review the new information and to record the material in more effective formats.
One advantage of these strategies is they provide an opportunity to review notes, which in turn aids in registering information into memory. Not only is the reviewing beneficial, but the processes of recopying and reorganizing make learning more active than just reviewing notes by sight; one is more likley to remember information when more senses are used. The strategies allow one to combine lecture and textbook material, making notes more complete. Similarly, recopying and reorganization allow one to check the accuracy of notes. Reorganization forces one to actively think about the material and to make associations among different pieces of information.
Recopying of notes is most commonly done by hand. Color coding may be added when recopying notes, using different colors of ink for different topics or using different colors of ink for different types of information (e.g. terms, people, dates, etc.). Refer to Identification of Information in the Color Coding section of this page for more details.
Computers or word processors may also be used to recopy notes. Some special programs, such as outlining templates, are available for this task. If notes are recopied with word processing software, be sure to keep two copies on separate disks in addition to the print out. One advantage of keying notes is that they take up less room (fewer sheets of paper). In addition, recopying notes on a computer permits one to neatly and easily add or delete information at a future date.
Reorganizing notes may involve changing the format of the notes and rewriting information in that format. Several options are available, including the Cornell method, the two-column method, outline format, FORM strategy, REAP strategy, and topic and concept cards. These forms of organization are covered in detail elsewhere in this page.
Note reorganization also may involve separating and recopying different types of information in separate places. For example, one may put all terms and definitions on one sheet of paper, all dates on another, all people and their contributions on another, etc.
Either approach to reorganization may be done by hand or on a computer.
If the instructor jumps around between topics, it may be necessary to color code information before reorganzing it. As discussed in the color coding section of this page, one may highlight information related to different topics in different colors, or one may highlight different forms of information (e.g. terms, names, dates, etc.) in different colors.
See and Spell (Homophones)
Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Spelling these words correctly in notes can impact profoundly one's interpretation and understanding of information. Commonly confused homophones are listed below (most are from Lunenfeld and Lunenfeld, 1992, p. 38-39).
Text Note taking
Taking notes on assigned readings is not as common a practice as it should be among students. There are several advantages of text notetaking. It improves attention and concentration, which in turn positively impacts registration of information in memory. Text notetaking encourages students to identify the main ideas and supporting details of the reading in order to better understand relationships among ideas and the overall organization of the text. It results in a shortened version of the assignment with all the essential information needed for future exam review. Finally, text notetaking reinforces learning of the material being read, and it makes reading a more active process.
The following paragraphs outline suggestions and strategies for text notetaking from course books as well as research or reference sources. Gleaning, described elsewhere in this page, is another strategy for recording notes from written material.