Week Three of SSC Academics

Note-Taking 102

Photo of a student in a lecture

Dear Marauder,

We’re almost at the end of Week 3–can you believe it?! Today’s post will build on Tuesday’s to give you some concrete examples of note-taking strategies. Like almost everything we’ve thought about in the past few weeks, note-taking is both highly individualised and something that takes practice–you’ll soon figure out what works for you!

Typed Notes vs. Handwritten Notes: Research to Think About

“The lure of multi-tasking on [laptops] can significantly hinder student comprehension of classroom lectures [and other] concerns arise in the efficacy of typed notes” (Stacy et al., 2015, p. 2)

So what?

You might be thinking that typed notes are inherently better, but the opposite is true! Using your computer to take notes puts you in close proximity to a lot of distractions and you are more likely to transcribe a lecture instead of taking time to process what your instructor is saying. If it is feasible for you, consider trying handwritten notes–it is to your benefit!

“We found that on factual questions, the students [who take longhand notes and those who type notes] did approximately equivalently. But when it came to the deeper understanding of material, that’s where the longhand note takers really shone” (Mueller qtd. in Martin, 2016).

So what?

If you weren’t convinced of the detrimental role that distractions from using a computer can have, remember that taking handwritten notes will give you a deeper understanding of course material. Even if it seems slow at first, it’s worth it to give it a try!

Guided Notes:

Guided notes are the professor’s notes, usually in the form of the slides they will use during lectures. When provided with these notes, you might be less tempted to take verbatim notes. Instead, You can pay attention to what the professor emphasises, take note of details, make connections with the course material, and think of questions to ask.

Concept Maps:

Photo of an energy diagram.

Concept maps are a great tool for visual learners because they show relationships between ideas. Think carefully about connections and consider differentiating with colour. There is no real template; do what works for you! You can even add embellishments after class to help you think. You can use concept maps in your note-taking or in your studying!

The Cornell Method:

Photo that shows the Cornell Method.

If you set up your paper using this method, your notes will be organised in a way that makes studying easier and more efficient. Focus on making notes in the lecture, only adding cues as they come to mind. This method is most successful when you integrate ideas in a contextual framework. After class, you can make more connections in the cue columns and review by summarising.

Taking notes in these ways can help with retention, understanding, and processing of information. They will also provide you with dynamic and organised study tools which will come in handy when you need to prepare for assignments and tests. When you trust yourself to know which information to record and you find a method that works, you set yourself up for success! Check back tomorrow for Asking Questions 101!





Martin, R. (Host). (2016, April 17). Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away [Radio broadcast episode]. http://www.npr.org/2014/07/08/329731421/buddhist-monks-face-jail-time-for-july-4-fireworks-display

Stacy, E.M., & Cain, J.W. (2015). Note-taking and Handouts in The Digital Age. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 79 7, 107.


How do I prepare for lecture? How can I stay organised? Do I really need to do anything before I show up? Lecture Preparation 101 has the answers for you!

What makes note-taking difficult? What is my brain trying to do when I take notes? How can I get the most out of what my instructors say? Read Note-Taking 101 to find out!

What is going to distract me during lecture? Do my peers also get distracted? Is there anything that I can do to keep focused? Distraction 101 has the answers to these questions!

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