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Note-taking often happens while listening; the goal is to quickly capture content so we can refer back to it later. Note-making is more common while reading; it consists in deliberately crafting our own version so we can learn and create better.
The generation effect is the underlying process which supports note-making. It’s the phenomenon where information is better remembered if it is actively created from your own mind rather than simply read in a passive way. By taking the time and making the effort to rephrase the content you are consuming, you are more likely to commit the information to your long-term memory.
There are three key principles to making good notes:
At all stages of making notes, the keyword is: active engagement.
The use of diagrams that visually map information using branching traces back centuries. Popularised by Tony Buzan, an English author and psychology consultant, mind mapping consists in visually connecting information around a central concept. It has been associated with better memory and recall, better creativity, and better connections between concepts. To take things further, you can try more advanced methods for thinking in maps.
A long-term endeavour to cultivate your curiosity (planting seeds), expand your knowledge (growing trees), and produce new thoughts (harvesting fruits), digital gardening consists in crafting and connecting evergreen notes in a non-hierarchical repository, similar to a personal wiki.
A simple process used by German sociologist Dr Niklas Luhmann to publish more than 70 books and nearly 400 scholarly articles in his lifetime, the Zettelkasten method uses index cards and unique identifiers to interlink notes together. The book How to Take Smart Notes does a fantastic job at explaining the method.
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Note-taking has played an important role in human history. Ancient Greeks used the word hypomnema (ὑπόμνημα) to describe what could be translated as a note, a reminder, or an anecdotal record.
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