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How to Become a Masterful Note-Taker: 8 Lessons From Research

Don't just take notes. Read them

If you have a bunch of pads or notebooks filled with meeting notes that you never consult, your note-taking isn't providing the most value over time.

Re-reading notes does make a difference. Because the chief value of note-taking is storing information so it could be consulted later.

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How to Become a Masterful Note-Taker: 8 Lessons From Research

How to Become a Masterful Note-Taker: 8 Lessons From Research

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/03/how-to-become-a-masterful-note-taker-8-lessons-from-research/274253/#

theatlantic.com

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Key Ideas

Digital vs. handwritten note-taking

There's little research into the benefits of digital note-taking over handwritten notes.

But the findings underline that typing out notes improves later recall, while copy and pasting text into notes is actually detrimental to learning because it encourages wordiness.

Structure and hierarchy

The most rigorously structured notes, those with hierarchal ordering and numbered subsections, are of the highest quality and accuracy. 

But although these notes are significantly more precise than freestyle note-taking, there is little difference in the ability of the note-taker to recall the material.

Mind-mapping

It brings visual structure to notes, usually involving writing one word in the center and drawing offshoots from it with related ideas and phrases.

Mind-mapping is significantly more effective than just writing out notes and helps with presenting the information back with more clarity and coherence than traditional notes.

The Von Restorff effect in notes taking

We remember things that stand out.

Underlining something makes it stand out against other words and that makes recalling that word easier. 

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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 tha...

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.

SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review)
  • Skim the material for bolded text, images, summaries, to produce a list of headlines;
  • Each headline is then written in the form of a question;
  • Record your “answers” to the reading questions under each corresponding header;
  • Once you’ve finished reading the text, write a summary of the material from memory—this is the “recite” part of the process. 
  • Finally, review your notes to make sure you’ve completely grasped the concepts.

Works for: dense written material.

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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).

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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