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When we take notes, it should not become a stack of forgotten thoughts. Our notes should be a rich and interconnected collection of ideas we can draw on regardless of where our interests lead us.
German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998) designed his slip-box made up of index cards. They were thematically unlimited. His simple system produced a prolific output. Over his 30-year career,&...
Writing is the medium in which thinking takes place.
Writing does not begin when we start to put words on a page. It starts much earlier, as we take notes on articles and books,...
We are typically taught to begin writing by picking a topic as the first step. But we can't decide if we haven't read about anything. And the decision to read comes from an existing interest.
Writing is often taught as a collection of tricks: brainstorm ideas, make an outline, use a three-paragraph structure, repeat the main points. Each one makes sense in isolation but requires a holis...
Many people take notes in an ad-hoc fashion. They might underline a sentence or write a comment in the margin. If they have a good idea, they write it down in one of many notebooks. They might sav...
We will become better when we intentionally expose our work to high-quality feedback. Feedback comes in the form of peers, teachers, social media, rereading our own writing. However, notes a...
Books seldom contain only the precise insights you were looking for. There may be many ideas, but only a fraction will be useful and relevant at a given time.
Note-taking enables you to c...
Organizing notes by topics and subtopics is a classic mistake. It prevents you from discovering meaningful connections between them. While organizing by topics is useful for a librarian, it is not ...
We are often told to "make a plan" upfront and in detail. Success is then measured by our ability to stick to this plan.
In creative work, questions change and new directions emerge to foste...
A slip-box system will lead us to save contradictory or paradoxical ideas. These ideas become very valuable. It will be easier to develop an argument or pros and cons than with a stri...
Any ideas that are kept private are as good as the ones you never had. Everything we write down and share with someone else counts: notes to a friend, homework to a professor, emails to a colleague...
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Ask yourself why are you reading:
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Preparation steps before a note-taking session:
Taking a structured approach to note-taking is the best way. Put the outline notes by choosing four or five key points of the lecture, followed by in-depth sub-points. One way to review is to use the Cornell Method, which divides the note sheet into three sections:
The mind map is a visual diagram of abstract concepts.
It works best in subjects like chemistry, history and philosophy, subjects having a neural network like interlocked and complex topics.
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Divide your paper into three sections: a 2.5” margin to the left, a 2” summary section on the bottom, and a main 6” section.
The page is organized by topic. While in class, start with the main topic. Branch off and write a heading for each of the subtopics. Add important notes underneath each subtopic.
This method is useful for visual learners. It helps you understand the relationships between topics.
Use headings and bullet points with supporting facts.
This method is useful when a topic includes a lot of detail.
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