Learning to take excellent notes in class is a skill that will enable you to stay organized and equip you with the tools necessary for you to do well on quizzes, tests, and projects. Begin with a binder and loose leaf paper, instead of a traditional bound notebook. Using loose leaf paper will allow you to add and delete notes, as well as move pages freely in the binder. You can also neatly store handouts and returned assignments among your notes in the binder. There are five steps to taking excellent notes: record, reduce, recite, reflect, and review.
Recording material presented in class is the first step in the process. At the top of your paper, write down the date, the class, the professor’s name, and any names of guest speakers. Skip a line or two and begin writing down any important information presented. Do not try to write in complete sentences, but rather use fragments, abbreviations, outlines, or even drawings. Write down all main ideas and objectives, as well as supporting information, quickly. Make sure you can read what you have written, but you will go back to the material later so it does not have to be perfectly neat. Because it is difficult to write word-for-word quickly, only write down direct quotes if they are absolutely necessary.
The second step is to reduce the information you have recorded. After class you should go back to your note pages. Look for the main ideas, key points, and important terminology. Write these in a separate section. The second time around, concentrate on organizing these main ideas and writing neatly. Use this section to also write down any questions you have about the material, as well as to link information from other sources that are related to this material.
Reciting the information is the third step of successful note taking. Talking aloud and without looking at your notes, review what you have learned. Using the main ideas you have written down, talk through the ideas in your own words. It is also helpful to create your own examples based on the information you were given in class. This will help you begin to learn the material on your own.
Step four is to reflect on the material. Think about what you have learned. Try to connect the information to what you already know. And write down any further questions you may have after thinking over the material.
The final step is to review the notes several times. Review the notes, and any questions you may have, before your next class, and when studying for tests and quizzes. Following these five steps will help you organize your notes and learn the material.