Article: Effective Reading and Note-Taking

How does one manage effective note-taking amidst everything the Professor is saying, drawing, and gesturing?

Well, let me tell you that there is an easier way to take notes, which involves just a little beforehand preparation.

Effective note-taking begins when you first read the class material beforehand. You can’t just come into class not knowing what the lesson will be about, and take notes “effectively”. How do you take important notes when you don’t know what is important since you never heard about the topic? So then to start off, we will examine how to read effectively. Here are some pointers:

Generate a question: The first time you read, you don’t have to nail down every single fact and be able to write a thesis statement on it… Simply scan the reading material, but know what you’re looking for. The best way to know what you’re looking for is to generate a question. Usually the heading of the chapter will present you with a question, and if there is no heading, the first or second sentence will usually describe the plot. If there is terminology in the heading of a chapter that you are unsure about, look it up immediately. As you scan the book, keep in mind anything you do not understand. When the teacher talks during class, you will be able to focus on those points you did not comprehend.

To illustrate the importance of this point, I will present you with a real life example. I went to a note-taking seminar the other day at my school. We were given a story to read about a house that had no definite conclusion. We were assigned to highlight all the points we thought were important, and then compare with a partner. The results of the comparisons? Almost everyone had something different highlighted, the cause of which being that no one knew what they were looking for.

After this, we were asked to look for important pointers about the house that would be relevant for a thief, and a real-estate agent, and compare with a partner. Almost every group had the same points highlighted. What this mini-experiment shows, is that we will highlight what is relevant only if we know what we are looking for by generating a question.

Now that you know how to read, let’s switch over to how effective note-taking occurs.

After reading the material, listening to the teacher won’t sound like listening to a lecture about rocket science. You will know exactly what it is being talked about, and will attune yourself to the key points that you did not understand in your reading, instead of just absorbing everything being said. Moreover, the questions you had from the reading will most likely dissipate as you will start to make connections between the reading and the lecture. So you will be able to take more effective notes, since the pieces will fall together, and instead of writing down every single thing (since everything will be new), you will be able to write down what you now know to be important, and be able to then go off of those notes to study effectively for a test. (http://manaanswers.com/2012/10/17/article-how-to-most-effectively-study-for-a-test)

As a last small pointer, if you actively participate in class, and then ask a teacher a well-thought out question (“Hey Mr. Asdareasdeas, in the reading it said xxx, but you said yyy, is there any reason for it to be THIS way?”) instead of a plain question (“I wasn’t paying attention in class, so can you tell me again what is xxx and aaaa?”), you will gain teacher recognition. If you ever need an assignment break, or that extra few percent in class towards that A, guess who will make that happen for you.

Hope this helped you out, good luck!

References: Michael deBraga, Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre

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