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The Ultimate Guide to Note-Taking

Timelines

A continuum of dates and events. 

However, timelines need not be limited to two-dimensions. Timelines can be multidimensional (i.e., date, relevant event, another event). 

Work for: recording history or biography, but they can also be used to compare and contrast similar events. 

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

The Ultimate Guide to Note-Taking

The Ultimate Guide to Note-Taking

http://katemats.com/guide-to-note-taking/#

katemats.com

10

Key Ideas

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 complex systems or concepts etc.

But what works for outlining a blog post might not work so great for brainstorming new ideas.

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.

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.

Visual mapping

A nonlinear system of note-taking that resembles a tree and root structure: ideas stem from one major concept and are connected by lines (or “branches”).

Pros: works well for visual learners; is tool for analytical-thinkers, because it outlines connections.

Cons: Time consuming; can get complex, doesn't work in every circumstances.

Works for: big-picture brainstorming sessions, planning essays and recording meetings.

Smart Wisdom

Instead of taking notes in full sentences, you record only keywords and place them in a chain that maps the thought process, written on a web-like grid, starting in the 1 o’clock position and working clockwise. 

Pros: allows you to take notes in “real time”.

Cons: few sources for learning how to use it.

Works for: meetings and lectures; dyslexic learners.

Timelines

A continuum of dates and events. 

However, timelines need not be limited to two-dimensions. Timelines can be multidimensional (i.e., date, relevant event, another event). 

Work for: recording history or biography, but they can also be used to compare and contrast similar events. 

Flow-chart

Represented by individual steps that start from a problem and lead to a solution. 

Each step is denoted by a different kind of shape which symbolizes whether the note requires action or decision. Unlike the timeline, a flow chart can veer in multiple directions, leading to different scenarios.

Venn diagram

Usually comprise overlapping circle that represent sets. A set includes items that all share a specific characteristic. 

Although there is no limit to the number of sets you compare, complicated Venn diagrams can be difficult to interpret

Works for: comparing and contrasting notes.

Fishbone diagram

  • Identify the main problem (effect) and write this in a box center left of the page. 
  • Draw a thick horizontal arrow pointing to this box - the head and spine of the fish
  • Then brainstorm categories of causes that could lead to this effect. 
  • For each of these causes, draw a line branching off of the main arrow

Works for: marketing, manufacturing or service industry for product design and quality defect prevention.

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 - 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.
  • M...
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. 

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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).

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.
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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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 diffe...

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.

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Note prioritization
Note prioritization

Most common reasons to search through old notes:

  • Figuring out who is supposed to do what
  • Revisiting/clarifying decisions made
  • Looking for greater context on requir...
Must-Capture notes in meetings
  • Action Items: to-dos, tasks, action requests etc. These will serve as the foundation to keep everyone aligned and moving forward.
  • Decisions: Clearly defining the outcome and decision agreed to by the group is essential.
  • Requirements/Specifications: Sometimes they pop up unexpectedly in the midst of conversation, but they’re important to document.
Honing your note taking strategies during meetings
  • Create an agenda, to be able to better control the pace of the meeting and plan for the likely key notetaking moments.
  • Take notes in advance: Write your key discussion points to present in advance.
  • Prepare your note-taking tools.
  • Prepare the setting before the meeting, especially before video calls: being able to hear everyone = better notes.
  • Block 10 minutes after the meeting, to clean up your notes, add details where there may be gaps, and delete notes that turn out to have no value.
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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Meta-Learning

It's knowing how to learn. Learning itself is a skill, and knowing how to do it well is an incredibly valuable advantage.

Merely acquiring information is not learning....

Learning has 2 phases

Learning is a two-step process:

  • Read/listen: feeding ourselves new information.
  • Process and recall what you’ve just ‘learned’: connecting new materials to what we already knew.
Remembering the right things

You should not waste your time by committing unimportant details to memory. 

Your focus should be on understanding the bigger picture, on how things relate to each other.

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Make planning a habit
Make planning a habit

Some mornings we feel motivated to create a to-do list, but that is often the exception. We need to get things done, even when we feel disengaged.

Start by setting the alarm for you...

Align your to-do list with goals
  1. Break down your big goals into daily tasks. You can't add "Get in shape" to your daily to-do list, but you can add "spend 30 minutes on my bike."
  2. Consider your week as a whole. You likely have multiple goals. Some goals benefit from daily activity, while working towards others a few times a week can create momentum.
  3. Add your have-to-do tasks last. We often fill our to-do lists with have-to-do tasks that crowd the whole day. Adding it last forces you to fit your have-to-do tasks around your goal tasks.
Have one daily priority

Many of us start our mornings with dozens of things we need to get done, but later realize that we haven't crossed any of them off our lists. We did get stuff done, but none of the things we planned.

A balm against hectic days that pass without progress is to choose a single activity to prioritize and protect in your calendar. If you struggle to select your top priority, ask yourself, when you look back on your day, what do you want the highlight to be? That's your priority.

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