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Author Topic: How to take good notes for class at University?  (Read 5288 times)
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Hello! I am going to University in about two weeks (excluding Frosh week). I was really hoping for some advice on a few things I am really really concerned about and I appreciate feed-back from your personal experiences (not theory, please).

I watched a test 10 minute lecture given by a calculus professor. I realized that I am very bad at writing and listening at the same time. But writing key concepts in class that the professor highlights is vitally important (or so I was told). So while writing one sentence out, the professor says something that I miss and suddenly I was lost. And in general, the lectures go at a blazingly fast speed. Thus, I am now really scared.

Did anyone else deal with this issue? How did you overcome it?

Did you confine yourself to writing EXTREMELY concise and only the vitally important notes? And then write out in-depth notes using the textbook later on?

The problem I have with this method, is that in the trial, every single little friggin' thing he said was super important. But I guess it is okay we can write out the notes later. But see my next paragraph:

Can I be sure the textbook goes over every single thing in the material covered in class? And even more importantly, did you find you had TIME to write out good notes? Ontop of doing the questions and problem sets.

I also appreciate any other random tips!
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learn to mindmap - google example mindmap images
(you can learn the basics in an afternoon, but redraw raw mindmaps into cooked ones, that are better balanced.

Check this pen - http://www.livescribe.com/en-gb/ - (worked with first releases of it and it is really cool)
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Get a small audio recorder, the type that records on SD cards, then you can play back every word.

Write what ever he does on the board. It should take you the same amount of time to write it as he did.

You can also try asking the prof to slow down while you make notes. I used to be a prof and I looked to see if people were writing before I said anything vital.

Ask for references at the end. If you do not understand anything then ask. It is your education not his. He already knows it. Do all the examples he sets.

Some one once described a lecture as the process of passing the notes from the lecturers not book to the students note book with out passing through the brain of either.
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what also helps is to scan through the content of a lecture before the lecture itself - be prepared -
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I'm going to start by reemphasizing the first item in Reply #2.  We use those at work.  They are very handy for spoken-word material.  (The SD card item is probably not a requirement.  We have recorders that are presented to a computer as a mass-storage device so copying / transferring recordings is very easy.)

The point of taking notes is to assist your brain.  Notes to a student are like a fan clutch wrench is to a mechanic.  Can a mechanic get by without a fan clutch wrench?  Very likely.  But, when you need one, it certainly makes life much easier.  If you have a very good memory, taking notes is essentially pointless.  If you have trouble remembering, taking notes is vital.  Your brain is a machine.  You (will) know better than anyone else how to get the most out of that machine.

The vast majority of the people I have met have brains that work best when the material is covered about three times with sleep in between.  If writing terse notes during class then rewriting verbose notes later gets you to cover the material a second (or third) time then it may be worth doing.  (Interestingly, the same basic idea works very well for dogs: cover it three times; sleep in between.)
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I didn't know one was allowed to record a lecture. I don't want to offend the prof. I will ask about that then.

I appreciate the suggestions and PLEASE, more are welcome!
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I didn't know one was allowed to record a lecture. I don't want to offend the prof.
It is better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.
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Well the idea of taking notes reminds me of one the running gags in the movie "Real Genius", which is set in a tech university in the early 80's (think Stanford or MIT).  At the beginning you see one of these enormous class rooms filled with every body taking notes (been there, done that), and as the time progresses, you see fewer students there and some reel to reel tape recorders (unfortunately I did not do that).  The final scene involving the class room has no human present, as each of the students has put a recorder, and the teacher also has put up a recorder with speakers.

I've seen people use digital cameras to record screen shots of the blackboard (you want to set it so it doesn't set off the flash, using higher ISO sensitivity settings, and some cameras have a special blackboard mode where it is optimized for shooting black and white shots of text).  I remember at school there were rumors of professors who could write with one hand, and use the eraser with another to continuously fill 3 blackboards.

You could also use a digital movie camera to record video.  Note, for long winded professors, you might run into the limit that some cameras have various limits on recording time (size of the video produced or limitation in software).  However, the problem of doing either voice only or video recording, is you have to listen to the whole thing once again.  One of the things that taking notes does is it hopefully imprints on you the key concepts as you are trying do summarize the speech in real time.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 06:52:46 am by MichaelMeissner » Logged

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Somebody advised preparation, I agree. Then at the lecture relax and try to go with the flow of what is being presented. I would not try to take verbatim notes just bullet points covering interesting points and things that were not clear from your preparation.

Each lecturer will have a different style of presentation and the way you keep notes will adapt.

After the lecture go over your notes with the course materials and text book. If there is something you don't understand ask fellow students and if you are still stuck raise it at a tutorial.
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However, the problem of doing either voice only or video recording, is you have to listen to the whole thing once again.

You are right... I won't have time to re-listen to 20 lectures every week. And I don't even actually have the proper camera equipment to fully record a lecture. I thought I could record using my computer but a lot of a lecture is on the blackboard. At least, I learn better by seeing it written down.

I guess people would've had to learn way back when there weren't digital recorders (or even computers). Radman, I will just have to adapt my note taking style for everyone. I just hope I can do it fast. That 3 blackboard story was not very inspiring lol.

Now, I have a question:
I have six courses.

Should I get 6, 2 inch binders? 6 notebooks? 6 Duotangs?

I just listed duotangs for completeness, I find them annoying, small, wear easily and generally useless.

Now: I read that the class will be full so you won't have a lot of room. Moreover, since classes are back-to-back, you cannot go back home to pick up other supplies. And your backpack can only have so many 2 inch binders.
In this capacity, notebooks are good.

But I dislike notebooks. I like to keep chapter notes with the night's homework directly behind it. So I write my notes, and then I can do the homework and put it behind. But with a notebook, I cannot just guess how many pages I think I will need. And what if I need to later on read the textbook and make additions to my notes.  I like being able to re-organize order.

But the above arguments FOR notebooks are are all very valid.

Am I just being picky? Maybe I can keep a notes notebook and work notebook.

My personal preferences aside, what did you use/find best? Notebooks or binders? What size?

Also, I never needed a notebook/binder for computer science in high school, I'm not sure if I will in University. And I don't know if I need it for something like Praxis either. I will actually list my courses:

STRUCT. & MATERIALS
INT.TO COMP.PROGRAM.
PRAXIS I
ENG. MATHEMATICS & COMPUTATION
CALCULUS 1
CLASSICAL MECHANICS

And here is the list of obvious supplies. If it is lacking, please point it out
lined paper (I guess I wouldn't need it if I use notebooks)
blank paper
pencils/lead
black, blue and red pen
eraser
ruler
scientific calculator
usb
laptop
backpack
agenda

[EDIT]
More negatives about notebooks:
- I cannot insert printed notes.
- Cannot insert notes I write on lined paper/extra notes
- Flimsy
- Cannot insert lecture notes professor gives
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 07:57:22 pm by 012anonymousxyz » Logged

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This is what I use for note-taking...
http://www.staples.com/Sustainable-Earth-by-Staples-Wirebound-Notebook-1-Subject-9-1-2-inch/product_749565?externalize=certona
Small enough to easily carry.  Large enough for a reasonable amount of material.  Very cheap if you wait for a sale.  Works beautifully with...

Pen...
http://www.twsbi.com/product.php?id_product=19

Ink...
https://www.google.com/search?q=noodlers%20black%20bulletproof%2019001
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Quote
More negatives about notebooks:
- I cannot insert printed notes.
- Cannot insert notes I write on lined paper/extra notes
- Cannot insert lecture notes professor gives

Tape.  Tape.  Tape.

Quote
- Flimsy

Get notebooks with heavy cardboard covers.
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I used a notebook from which I could tear the pages - punch holes in it and insert into a folder (right word?) 
- printed stuff could be added ,
- revisions of notes was easy,
- adding copies from magazines.
- adding tabs to organise
(so '80's, but it worked without batteries, and the notes were readable in full sunlight smiley
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Personally I find taking notes is a wast of time! When I first went to college I was abscessed with taking notes and recording the professor's every word. After the first semester I stopped both. Now I only write down due dates or small lines when the professors says stuff like "you need to know this" or "you might see this again" other then that I just learn form the book!


Don't wast your time taking notes like I did! Just study the book and make quizlets. They help a lot.


And for proof that this method works I have a 4.0!

Best of luck!
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 10:06:54 pm by Drew Davis » Logged

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Personally I find taking notes is a wast of time! When I first when to college I was abscessed with taking notes and recording the professor's every word. After the first semester I stopped both. Now I only write down due dates or small lines when the professors says stuff like "you need to know this" or "you might see this again" other then that I just learn form the book!

Don't wast your time taking notes like I did! Just study the book and make quizlets. They help a lot.

And for proof that this method works I have a 4.0!

Best of luck!
I guess that is just how some people learn. Personally, I cannot remember if I do not write notes. But there is something to be said about being excessive and writing every little word, I agree.

Tape.  Tape.  Tape.
Really? Lol. I cannot imagine how that would work.

I used a notebook from which I could tear the pages - punch holes in it and insert into a folder (right word?)  
- printed stuff could be added ,
- revisions of notes was easy,
- adding copies from magazines.
- adding tabs to organise
(so '80's, but it worked without batteries, and the notes were readable in full sunlight smiley
Could you perhaps give me a link of such a notebook? I've never heard of one where you could 'add' pages and I'm not sure what you mean by 'punch holes in it.'


So, the general feeling I'm getting is: definately go for a notebook, don't buy a 2 inch binder. Is that right?
Now: how many pages should be in the notebook. There are tons of sizes. 70, 108, etc. Don't care about going too big, its about going too small.
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