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While almost all students in American education have been taught to take notes in outline form, recently it has been discovered this is not the most successful way to learn from notes. Learning information in a linear format is time-consuming and often highly unproductive. When you study, your overriding and primary goal should be to understand relationships between and among the topics and supporting detail. Thus, you need to employ a note taking system that helps you understand relationships. There are, in fact, a few different types of note-taking strategies you should use to record notes. We suggest four major strategies: maps, matrices, diagrams and cards. These strategies will help you identify important relationships among topics and supporting details. Constructing quality notes is the key to effective learning. Good note taking consists of three phases: before note taking, during note taking, and after note taking.

Before note taking, you must decide what type of note-taking strategy you will use. For example, Outline Olivia is adamant that writing notes in outline form is the best way to learn and study, but she does not understand why her grades are average. Outline Olivia believes in the principle: studying = memorize information. Therefore, she will choose the outline to record her notes. But what if she realized that the principle for effective studying is: studying=understand relationships? She would no longer choose the outline. She would first survey her text to identify the organizational patterns in the text and to see how many topics are included in the chapter. For example, poor Outline Olivia is enrolled in an investment course. In the second chapter she discovers she needs to learn 21 different investment options divided among six major investment categories. For each investment option she has to know definitions, examples, advantages, disadvantages, when to buy, when to sell, how to buy, and who should buy. She is hopelessly confused. Outline Olivia needs a strategy to organize the topics and supporting details so that she can compare and contrast each investment strategy. It's simple. With her new principle, she would choose the note card strategy. She should place each investment option on a different card. She should also place the same categories of information in the same location on each card. Thus, she could move the cards around to compare and contrast the strategies.

During note taking problems may occur. For example, what should Olivia do when she attends Professor Rambling's stream-of-conscious lectures on investments? Simple. Olivia will be happy. She will use her outline to record the information. More on this in a minute. What should Olivia do when the chapter is also disorganized? First, she should carefully mark the chapter to prepare it for note taking. Then she should look for organizational patterns. What logically fits together? Then she should begin to take notes.

After note taking Olivia will have to monitor her note-taking strategies to see if her notes are adequate. For Dr. Rambling's lecture notes, she needs to convert her outline notes into a matrix soon after Rambo Rambler finsihes the lecture. She needs to look at her notes to determine if the notes are complete. Some first year students record only ten percent of the lecture information. Lecture information that is not recorded in notes has only five percent probability of being answered on the exam. Olivia should ask such questions as:
"Has my productivity improved with less time wasted?"
"Am I spotting missing material, since I started using the matrix system?"
"Am I learning more about the topics by seeing the relationships between them?"
"Have my grades improved by using these different types of note-taking systems?"
Note-taking strategies are very helpful in college academics. Without effective note taking strategies students would be lost and miss a lot of important information. In college the material is dense. To be able to remember all of the material it is definitely important to understand meaningful relationships. Return to the web site next week to see how successful Olivia can use maps, matrices, diagrams, and cards to record effective notes.

 

 

 

   
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