Note taking is an important part of going back to college. Whether one uses a computer or paper, it is important to learn to summarize as one goes and then re-write the notes after class. While I don’t record all of my class lectures, I do record lectures from my harder classes. If the class is more visually based, I have been known to set up my computer to record the lecture through its camera while I take notes by hand. I recommend taking notes more by hand than I do via computer when in the classroom because it allows the brain to be engaged more than typing words on a screen. I do tend to re-write my notes on a computer just to organize them after each chapter. There is no one way to take notes. In fact, depending on the teaching style and type of class, my note structure changes. In my math classes, I tend to use a draw it out method. In classes where I have professors who do what I call tangential-popcorn lectures (jumping from different topics and then going back) I use a mind mapping technique. In anatomy I used a specific printout I created that was a Cornell method hybrid.
Basic Cornell notes work for classes that rely heavily on lecture. How it is set up is that the paper is divided into three part: a small skinny part for questions/verbal cues/vocabulary, the larger part for outline-type notes, and then a bottom section for a summary of the lecture. These types of notes are good for teachers who are linear. They are also good for book notes. I used a type of hybrid of this type for my Anatomy and Physiology class. The front was an entire page to write outline notes. The back of the page has a place for summary, key points, key words, and a place to draw things out (ATP cycle, muscle types, tissue types, cell types, etc.). If you have a class that is heavily visual with processes or concepts, these are the types of notes one should use. Note taking is highly individual. It is why when you ask for someone else’s notes from class, you may or may not understand them. However, having a semblance of organization helps if you are letting someone borrow your class notes. I rarely gave out my organized notes because I felt that if I did all the work, someone else shouldn’t benefit. Also, when it came to my note taking I used specific colors for lecture notes, book notes, and clarified questions I had were all on that topic’s notes. So in the end, my unorganized notes were three different colors before I typed them up. It really helped for exams and quizzes.
Most people will tell you to read your book before class. I say skim the chapter to get an idea of what is going to be talked about. Make sure you write down any immediate questions that pop out. During the lecture, as they get answered make note of this. If questions aren’t answered, then ask them in class. Then go back and summarize the lecture notes—pulling out key concepts. Only after that do I go back to the book and read/take notes from the book. Sometimes books are wrong—it is a fact of life. I had a book in a class that we barely used because of information that was wrong/out of date. So, remember to make note if the professor says that something is supposed to be the way he/she teaches it and not what is in the book.
So below are some print outs for note taking that I use. I don’t have a mind map yet, I tend to just wing it on plain paper. If you want me to make one just drop me a line! Remember that these are for personal use only, so please do not try to sell them. Also, direct people to my website as opposed to giving them the direct link for this and all other printables that I have created. I hope you enjoy them!
Here is a copy of Plain Cornell Notes
Here is a copy of my Plain Hybrid Cornell Notes
Here is a copy of the printout I use for Math