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Last Updated on February 19, 2020

7 Most Efficient Note Taking Methods

7 Most Efficient Note Taking Methods

Whether you are going back to college or have decided to take learning into your own hands, note-taking is a skill that is truly unique.

On the surface, it can seem like jotting down the important points or stating everything word for word. But delving into the world of note-taking begins a realization that there is more to it than that.

So if you feel like your note skills are rusty, or if you didn’t care much about note-taking, here are some note taking methods to help you prepare and succeed in this area.

What to Do Before Note Taking

There are all kinds of strategies and systems in place to be taking notes. Some are more formal methods for taking notes while others are strategies that have helped others in the past. But before jumping into note-taking techniques, there are some things to consider prior to learning:

Adopt a Note Taking Mindset

Even our attitude and behavior plays a factor in our ability to take notes. For example, snacks with high sugar or high salt will impact our ability to pay attention to. This also applies to coffee which – if not consumed in moderation – can impact sleep and your ability to pay attention and focus as well.

In this regard, we can see already how mood can impact our ability to take notes. If we’re not focused or easily distracted, we will have a tougher time putting together accurate notes. But that is a more extreme case.

If you’re someone who doesn’t drink coffee or has a snack before class, attitude can still play a significant role. Think back to classes that you weren’t that excited for or that you were bad at. The only reason those topics are not your strong suit can be chalked up to your attitude.

Think about it:

The topics you excelled at made you feel good and you had a vested interest in. This is no different from other pursuits in your life. Compared to things you lack interest in, it’s clear that you would make no effort to learn about something that you don’t want.

So attitude makes a difference and this logic can be applied to even topics you’re not big on. All you need to do is have a positive attitude, pay attention, and study with a classmate or two.

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Preparing Before Class

First, if you are taking a formal course, it pays to be prepared. One study by Spies and Wilkin[1] found that law students who read a legal case before getting to class displayed deeper understanding of the material compared to others.

This doesn’t apply to courses where you are assigned reading but in all manner of courses. With plenty of information made available at our fingertips, there is a lot of opportunities for us to learn about the subject before a course or a training session.

This will pay off for you as you’ll spend more time focusing on understanding the tougher aspects of a topic rather than absorbing the information as is.

7 Efficient Note Taking Methods

In Miami University’s public database, there is a course outlining note-taking and active listening [2]. These particular methods are some of the more popular methods for taking notes.

1. The Outline Method

This method is used for simplicity and is one of the easiest methods of taking notes. Anyone can pick up this method and use it with no issues.

When using this method, the idea is to select four or five key points that are going to be covered in a specific lesson. Under those key points, you write more in-depth sub-points based on what is being discussed on those topics.

The idea with this form of note taking is so it doesn’t overwhelm you. But you’ll pay attention in a different manner. In the case of this approach, if you know what’s being discussed, you’ll focus on the important aspects of that topic rather than wonder what’s coming up next.

Use this method in cases where:

  • You want your notes to be organized from the start.
  • To see the relationships between both topics and subtopics.
  • You want to convert the points into questions to quiz yourself on later.

2. The Cornell Method

Developed in the 1950s by Cornell University, this is the most common note taking method around. In fact, the outline method is likely inspired by this method as there are similarities to it.

In this method, you are still using key points, but this method goes deeper into the organizing method. For one, the page is broken into three sections:

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  • a narrow column called the “cue”
  • a wider column for your actual notes
  • a summary at the bottom

The cue section is the section where you fill out main points, people, potential test questions and more. This section is devoted to helping you recall larger topics and ideas.

The note section is devoted to expanding and explaining those cue points. You still want to summarize them to an extent using headings. When getting into specifics, you want to indent them and use a numbering system, either roman numerals, numbers, or letters.

The summary section is the section you write up at the end summarizing all of the information in a clear sentence or two. You want both the summary and the cue to be simple seeing as your notes are where you want all of the details.

Here’s an example illustrated by Comprehension Hart:[3]

    This method is great if you:

    • Want notes to be organized even further and easier to review.
    • Want to pull out major ideas and concepts quickly.

    3. Mind Mapping Method

    Mind mapping is a method that works for subjects that have interlocking topics or complex and abstract ideas. Chemistry, history, and philosophy are examples where this method shines.

    The use of the map is to serve as a visual aid for how every topic is related to one another. It also allows you to go into detail on particular ideas or topics. An example of this at work is looking at the French Revolution.

    First, you’d start with that concept at the center and then begin branching off that led to events, and people that sparked the French Revolution.

    You can start off with broad general ideas and during the course or when you are reviewing, you can add in sub-concepts to those branches. Things like dates, support facts, concepts that you see between people and events.

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    That being said, this method doesn’t apply to  only those kinds of topics. Any kind of topic that you can break into various points can also help as well. Another example can be talking about different forms of learning and using the nodes to discuss each method and what each one is like.

    Learn more about this method here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    This type of method for note taking is great for:

    • Visual learners who struggle with studying via notes.
    • For people who need to remember and connect relationships, and events with topics.

    4. Flow Notes Method

    Discussed in a post in College Info Geek,[4] this method is for those who want to maximize active learning in the classroom and save time in reviewing.

    The idea of flow notes is to treat yourself as a student rather than transcribing word for word. In this method, you’ll jot down topics, then start drawing arrows, make doodles, diagrams and graphs to get a general idea out there.

    This method also helps in drawing other bridges and form connections in various fields or within the subject. If some information reminds you of another piece of information or technique, make a note and jot it down.

    Take a look at this video to learn a bit more about this method:

    The only catch with this method is that while it’s great for learning at that moment, you may have a tough time reviewing them later. You may want to pair this method with another method mentioned above.

    5. The Sentence Method

    Another simple method and is a lesser version of flow notes. The idea with this is a simple note-taking. You’re jotting down everything that’s being said to the best of your ability. It’s genuine transcription at it’s finest.

    The problem with this method is that it can be tough to keep up with everything else that’s happening. If you’re writing notes by hand, you will definitely be missing key points and ideas. On a computer, you may be able to keep up, however, you may face challenges still.

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    Despite those problems, there are still advantages to this method. Compared to every other method, this provides the most details and information for review:

    • You can still be brief by covering the main points.
    • Your notes are already simplified for you to study and review them immediately.

    6. Charting Method

    Charting notes take the Cornell method and divide a sheet into three columns. Similar to the mind mapping method, this helps you in connecting relationships and facts together between topics.

    This method is a lazier method than the other ones mentioned above but works for the people who want to highlight key pieces of information on various topics and want to organize facts for easy review.

    7. Writing on Slides

    The final method is another strategy for people who can’t be bothered to take extensive notes. This method works well particularly in classes where the instructor provides slides that they’re using for their lectures.

    Whether it’s a handout or you can download them online, all you need to do is print them off and start writing away on them.

    This method is great because it removes a lot of the worry of taking general notes. Since ideas and concepts are already discussed, it’s a matter of expanding those notes already.

    What Note Taking Techniques Are the Best?

    As you may have noticed, each method is good in its own situation. Depending on what you’re learning – and your own preferences – each method has advantages.

    It’s also worth noting that every person learns and studies in a different manner. With this in mind, consider how you study and figure out the method that best compliments it.

    More About Learning Fast

    Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on September 24, 2020

    Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

    Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

    You’re never too old to learn, and this isn’t just some fancy statement; this is many people’s motto in life. If you agree, there are various learning methods to help you ensure that you continue to learn day in and day out.

    We have all been learning since childhood—our parents teach us morals, our teachers teach us math, society teaches us acceptance, our work teaches us how to do our job, etc. Even if you’re 70, life has a whole new book of things to teach you; you just need to have the heart and willingness to learn.

    What you learn today will always benefit your current and future self. The question is, with such limited time in life, how can we learn effectively?

    In this article, I’ll introduce to you the essential learning methods and some of the best ways to learn.

    The Best Ways to Learn

    There are so many different ways of learning, and here, I’ve handpicked some of the best ways that will definitely help you in being an effective learner[1].

    Here Are The Best Learning Methods for Retention

      1. Your Comfort Zone

      For most people, staying in their own comfort zone opens their minds and helps them retain information. For instance, many learn and retain information when they’re taking notes on a piece of paper; others learn by watching videos and documentaries relevant to the topic.

      By finding out how you’re comfortable learning will surely help you in effectively retaining new information, and you will remember it for a longer period of time.

      2. Learning Through Play

      Just like children learning actively, you can learn through play. This doesn’t literally mean building blocks out of plastic Lego, but by implementing what you have learned[2]. If you’ve just learned a new way to make quiche, the best way of making sure you know it properly and remember it is by immediately making it at home.

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      3. Pass That Information on

      If you’ve learned something, avoid passive learning, and, instead, pass the information on to someone else.

      When you go through what you’ve learned and are explaining the process to someone else through this teaching method, you will learn and remember better.

      One study found that teaching information is so effective in introducing it to our long-term memory because it forces us to retrieve that information over and over again[3].

      In classrooms, there is a frequent activity of dividing students into groups, and one of them explains to other classmates what the day’s lecture was about. This not only helps the speaker understand concepts better, but when other classmates are being reinforced with the lesson, they also remember better.

      4. Rote Learning Is a Big NO

      Many people try to memorize word by word what they have been taught, as if they were sitting in a written exam. Teachers discourage rote learning in students as well because by only memorizing some words, the goal isn’t met. The main point here is to truly understand and connect the dots of what you’ve learned.

      The generation today has grown up with computers and is used to getting all the information needed at the click of a button, which means they don’t really absorb the true meaning of what they’re learning.

      Rote learning is just like that. You just pick up the information from somewhere and learn it word for word, which doesn’t really help you understand anything, only to memorize.

      Learning is all about being able to express what you have understood about a particular concept. It is being able to give your own opinion about a certain event, instead of just knowing the facts. Somewhere along the line, we do want to learn new things, but some of us have the attention span of a goldfish or simply don’t know the smart learning methods.

      Some people may be more receptive to one kind of method, and some to another. A smart person would try and find out which method of learning is best suited to them, and use that to enhance their learning process. The following learning methods will be helpful for you.

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      Types of Learning Methods

      Essentially, there are 7 types of learning methods that researchers have compiled over time. If one resonates with you, it’s likely that it’s your preferred learning method.

      Visual

      This type of learning requires visual material to understand. This could be in the form of videos, graphics, and images. This method helps people in visually understanding what they see.

      You may be this type of learner if you often imagine faces to remember someone’s name, use landmarks to give directions, or need to write down information to remember it.

      Aural

      This kind of learning style uses audio like music and sounds to understand. You may like this learning method if you often remember information after lectures or are good at memorizing the words to songs.

      Verbal

      This method is usually for people who like to speak and narrate their stories in order to learn. This can be done through scripted speeches, impromptu narrations, or even just daily conversations.

      Logical

      Many people like learning through logic; they won’t understand a concept if they’re just spoon-fed it.

      They want proper reasoning to why and how something happened for them to properly learn something.

      These people are often very good at forming arguments, problem-solving, and participating in debates.

      Social

      This is when people learn better when they’re divided into groups and are with other people. These social groups help expand their horizons and give them confidence to ask questions and solve problems.

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      Solitary

      This learning style is usually best for people who prefer to learn alone in a confined place that has no distractions whatsoever. They are either easily distracted with other people.

      Physical

      This is a learning technique where people learn through physical acts, like using their hands or simply by the sense of touch.

      This technique is used when a child actively participates in order to learn. For example, to help them understand what “fluffy” means, they are asked to touch a cotton cushion or a hairy cat. This is how children learn and understand better.

      However, many adults learn with this learning method as well. If you enjoy building or designing things, this may be your preferred learning method.

      What types of learning methods suit you better? You can find out in this article: How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

      In order to support any kind of learning listed above, you have to be physically fit and healthy. Your mind and body need to be nurtured in order for any kind of learning method to be effective. Here are some of the things that can be done on a daily basis to maintain a receptive mind and body.

      Habits to Help You Learn

      To be an effective listener, you also have to be able to retain that information. People learn new things every day, but only a portion of those people are able to remember what they learned by the end of the day.

      There are some tried and tested home remedies that have worked like a charm for people who are looking to enhance their memory.

      Sleep More

      An active brain is one that sleeps almost 8-10 hours a day. If you’re overworked and sleep for barely five hours, there are chances that your brain needs rest to retain information.

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      But if you’re somebody who sleeps for 11-15 hours a day, you may just be too lazy and need to engage in healthy activities to keep your brain active.

      Eat Healthy

      Include lots of protein and Omega-3s in your diet. Drink lots of water and generally stay away from refined carbs.

      You don’t have to quickly switch over to salads, but just generally try to adapt to a healthier eating pattern. Limit the use of alcohol and caffeine because they slow down your brain, causing a hindrance in your learning journey.

      Here are 15 Brain Foods You Should Be Eating Regularly to Keep Your Mind Sharp.

      Socialize

      By meeting new people every day, you’re not only giving your brain a chance to open up, but you’re also having your brain exercise by getting new information. Talking to people and engaging in daily conversations helps the flow of information.

      Do Activities That Challenge Your Brain

      If your brain hasn’t yet been exposed to challenges where you really have to think and work your mind, you may not be an effective learner, despite engaging in the above learning methods. There are many activities that increase your motor skills, like puzzles, mathematical questions, or even solving crosswords in your daily newspaper. You can also try these 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory.

      When your brain is active and running, you possess a better chance of learning new things and actually retaining that information.

      Final Thoughts

      Learning has been a safe haven for so many people, whether it’s about learning to cook a complicated dish for a family gathering or simply about sewing a button on a shirt.

      The best among us are people that don’t let anything get in the way of their learning process; these people make it their life motto to wake up every day and learn at least one new thing before going to bed. And these people are all around us; we are these people.

      The knowledge we gain today can benefit our career, relationships, and our everyday life, so get started now.

      More on Utilizing the Learning Methods

      Featured photo credit: Sarah Noltner via unsplash.com

      Reference

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