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How to Take Better Notes: The 6 Best Note-Taking Systems

Using a Laptop

Using a laptop is not an ideal way to take notes or to learn, during a lecture.

  • A laptop distracts and impairs the learning process, as you might be tempted to play games or multitask with it during lectures.
  • In the old-school hand-written method, you are processing the information, leading to better understanding and learning.
  • How you use the computer also matters, and many students can use the internet to learn or re-check information on the fly.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

How to Take Better Notes: The 6 Best Note-Taking Systems

How to Take Better Notes: The 6 Best Note-Taking Systems

https://collegeinfogeek.com/how-to-take-notes-in-college/

collegeinfogeek.com

5

Key Ideas

Note Taking - Starter Tips

Preparation steps before a note-taking session:

  • Try to get familiar with the topic that is going to be discussed, beforehand. This leads to better understanding.
  • Make sure you have adequate notepaper and writing material.
  • Stay hydrated and consume caffeine moderately.
  • Don't go in hungry, opting for a wholesome snack.
  • Have a positive attitude, and a willingness to pay attention.
  • If something is getting repeated in class or is indicated to be important, pay attention.

Outline Method

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:

  • Cues: It includes key questions and main points.
  • Notes: Which you write during the class using the outline method. 
  • Summary: Which you can write after class while reviewing.

The Mind Map

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. 

 Slides and Bullet Journaling

  • Simply Write on PPT Slides: An easy method to take notes is to just write on the slides of the presentation. The PPTs have note-taking space in them and if you are able to get them in advance, the whole process becomes simple.
  • Bullet Journaling: Turn a blank page into a beautiful representation of your thought process. You can go crazy and include mind maps, flow notes, colorful design styles, making the note-taking process a delight, and learning in the process.

Using a Laptop

Using a laptop is not an ideal way to take notes or to learn, during a lecture.

  • A laptop distracts and impairs the learning process, as you might be tempted to play games or multitask with it during lectures.
  • In the old-school hand-written method, you are processing the information, leading to better understanding and learning.
  • How you use the computer also matters, and many students can use the internet to learn or re-check information on the fly.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The Outline method
The Outline method

It requires you to structure your notes in form of an outline by using bullet points to represent different topics and their subtopics. 

Start writing main topics on the far left ...

The Cornell Method
  • The page is divided into 3 or 4 sections (top for title and, bottom for summary, 2 columns in the center).  
  • 30% of width should be kept in the left column while the remaining 70% for the right column.
  • All notes go into the main note-taking column
  • The smaller column on the left side is for comments, questions or hints about the actual notes. 
The Boxing Method

All notes that are related to each other are grouped together in a box. 

A dedicated box is assigned for each section of notes which cuts down the time needed for reading and reviewing.

Apps are especially helpful for this method because content on the page can be reordered or resized subsequently.

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Note Taking

Students who take notes during a lecture or presentation achieve more than those who just passively listen.

Note-taking makes one's attention focused on the ideas being discussed, and also le...

Note Taking Cues

When the instructor says 'this is important' or 'note this', or gives a non-verbal cue that the content being discussed is important, it can enhance the student's note-taking. They can also listen to the cues to help them organize their lessons.

Revision of notes

Revision of notes, done right after the lecture, is a crucial step so that any missing lesson ideas can be filled using our short-term memory.

  • Hand-written notes are better than laptops as the latter can be distracting, with students checking email or playing games. It also distracts nearby students.

  • Laptop notes are inferior as they are verbatim and shallow.

  • Hand-written notes are well-thought-out, summarized and have a lot of graphic information that is missing from laptop notes.
The Cornell Method
The Cornell Method

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 main 6" section is used for note-taking during class.
The Mapping Method

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.

The Outlining Method

Use headings and bullet points with supporting facts.

  • During a lesson, begin your notes with a bullet point for the main topic.
  • The first subtopic is placed below and indented slightly to the right.
  • Jot down the details below your heading and slightly to the right.

This method is useful when a topic includes a lot of detail.

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Adapting to context

Different types of information demand different styles of note-taking. There are lots of reasons to take notes: to retain information, to capture ideas, to problem solve or brainstorm, to visualize...

The Outline/List

Is a linear method of taking notes that proceeds down the page, using indentation or bullets to denote major and minor points.

Pros: it records content relationship in a way that is easy to review.

Cons: difficult to go back and edit information written in this system.

Works for: recording terms, definitions, facts and sequences, when taking notes on slides or readings.

The Sentence Method

The goal is to jot down your thoughts as quickly as possible. Format is kept to a minimum: every new thought is written on a new line. 

Pros: Is like free writing for notes.

Cons: lack organization and notes can be hard to understand.

Works for: meetings or lectures that lack organization; when information is presented very quickly.

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Purpose of taking notes

Note-taking serves one simple purpose: to help you remember information. 

Although we might associate note-taking with school, it's something most of us continue doing for the bul...

Keep your notes simple

Keep them short, but have enough triggers in the keywords to jumpstart your memory when you look at them again:

  • Stick to keywords and very short sentences.
  • Write out your notes in your own words.
  • Find a note-taking style to fit both your needs and the speakers.
  • Write down what matters.
Outdated techniques

Rereading your notes, highlighting them, underlining them, and even summarizing them  - all take a lot of your time.

Better methods include taking breaks and spreading out your studying (known as distributed practice), and taking practice tests (which isn't really applicable outside of school).

Laptops vs pen and paper

In an experiment, students were given Ted Talks to watch and were told to take notes, half with laptops, the other with pen and paper.

  • The students using a keyboard were more likely to ...
Recording lectures

Recording lectures to replay later has shown to have no added benefits compared to paying attention the first time without the possibility of watching it again.

  • The advantage of watching it again is that you don't have to worry about taking notes and can focus your full attention on it.
  • The benefit of taking notes is that it forces you to process the information and think about it before you can summarize it.
Note-taking: a powerful tool for learning
  • Notes extend your memories: writing can be seen as an external enhancement of your brain, allowing you to think more complicated thoughts and solve harder problems.
  • Not...
How to Take Notes While Reading
  1. Figure out your purpose.
  2. Choose a technique that maximizes your focus on what is most relevant for your purpose. 
  3. Decide whether to optimize for review or retrieval practice.  
  4. If you do need to go back into the text again and again, create clues in your notes that can help you find what you’re looking for faster.
Figure out your purpose

Ask yourself why are you reading:

  • What am I trying to remember? 
  • How am I going to use this information? (e.g. on a test, cited in an essay, etc.)
  • What do I plan to do with the notes later? Will you be studying off of them extensively? Or maybe you’re just taking notes to stay focused, and it’s highly unlikely you’ll look through them after?

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A New Way To Study
A New Way To Study

Studying takes too much time, and there is only a limited number of hours. Spaced repetition method uses time intervals and makes you recall more information, using less time.

The spacing e...

Pierce J. Howard
Pierce J. Howard

“Work involving higher mental functions, such as analysis and synthesis, needs to be spaced out to allow new neural connections to solidify. New learning drives out old learning when insufficient time intervenes.”

Everything Remains In Memory

A recent theory on forgetting states that everything we learn remains in storage inside our memory, but our ability to recall and retrieve that information fades if we do not practice fetching information.

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Benefits of note-taking
  • Taking notes keeps you focused.
  • It triggers critical, constructive thinking.
  • It enables you to stay engaged.
  • It captures in-the-moment insights, qu...
Effective notes taking
  • Choose the right tool: digital or paper, whatever works for you;
  • Give your notes structure: this focuses your thinking and simplifies review and retrieval;
  • Record whatever’s important or interesting: questions, key insights, quotes, diagrams, etc.;
  • Use symbols so you can quickly scan your notes later: e.g.: "*" for important/insightful or "?" for things that require further research;
  • Schedule time to review your notes.
Prevent Tiredness

General tiredness affects the majority of people.

Here are a few basic ideas to have all-day energy:

  1. Respect your body's sleep cycle
  2. Move around
  3. Moderate coffee int...
Respecting your body's sleep cycle

It is imperative to sleep 7 to 9 hours for most adults.

An alarm clock or phone alarm can interfere with the body's sleep cycle to wake us up before a cycle is completed. It is healthier to sleep while not being simulated and wake up naturally.

Don't be a Couch Potato

Apart from rest, it is crucial to have a daily exercise routine and get some sun exposure regularly.

Human beings are designed to move and be in the sun, trekking and toiling for hours. If you are feeling tired, walking outside in nature and getting some sun will help.

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