Note taking tips to improve your study habits

classroom of students watching a lecture
Students take notes and pay careful attention during a class. (Won Choi / Daily Sundial)

There are so many factors that go into a class that could either make it dreadful or enjoyable. There’s the subject, the teacher and something often overlooked – class notes.

Class notes play a huge role in the student’s study life and can be a significant tool to help them understand the material and pass the class.

“Taking notes can enhance learning due to the generative effect – students retain knowledge better when they generate materials themselves rather than having materials given to them” according to research by Lori Quintus and several professors from North Dakota State University, published by NATEFACS. “Even though the information is given to students through lecture and visual aids, the act of writing notes creates a further learning opportunity.”

Below, you will find different ways to improve your note-taking skills. Apply the one that suits you best:

1. Cornell Notes – Writing in the Cornell format will help you organize and de-clutter your notes. The format is divided into four sections. The top section is for the topic name and date of the class meeting. On the left of your notes, you write down the crucial points of the lecture such as, main ideas, vocabulary words, and any questions you may have. To the right of that is where you will extend on the topics and write down the definitions of the terms. Lastly, you will write the summary of the lecture on the bottom portion of your notes. This is where you can write what you understood/took from the lecture, and what the overall discussion was about!

Cornell Notes.jpg
Cornell Note format Photo credit: Pinterest

2. Record the lecture – Everyone nowadays owns a laptop or a smartphone. With either device, you can record the lecture (with the professor’s permission). That way, you don’t miss a beat and can add important information you may have missed in your notes.

3. Choose intriguing, but not distracting colors – Color-coding is a classic way to highlight important topics in your notes. Choose specific colors for specific topics so that you have a clear direction and better understanding of what the discussion is about. A visual element that can really help you take and study your notes is choosing colors of your liking! Just make sure they’re not distracting (neon, glitter, etc). That’ll ensure you enjoy what you’re looking at since you have to look at it for at least an hour or two.

4. Illustrations – This may be weird and you may think to yourself “I’m not in elementary school, so why draw pictures?” but if you draw a small illustration next to the topic, it will help your memorization! If the topic is about war, you can draw a few soldiers at battle to help you remember what war was being fought, where it was taking place and more (depending on how detailed you get with your pictures). Even in dire cases where you weren’t able to study your notes as much as you would have liked, glancing at the chapter title, and then glancing at your illustration may bring back some information you may have forgotten during your test.

School can be tough and classes can be dreadful, but with these few, easy tips you can make it fun and ultimately create a better experience for yourself in and out of the classroom!