How should you make notes at university?
Throughout your time at university, taking notes is something that will become immensely important. Regardless of your course, detailing the key information from each week of teaching is essential for future essay and exam revision. Yet it is something I think students do not give enough time to. Given that this information – handwritten or typed – will become the foundation of revision in many months time, ensuring you give yourself the best chance of performing well is crucial.
While the precise forms of note-taking will naturally vary from course to course, I thought it would be worth outlining the precise methods I use. You might try these and find they don’t work for you. That is fine: everyone’s approach will be slightly altered to best suit their working patterns. All I offer are my tips for note-taking that have invaluable for me.
I’ve tried my best to utilise both handwritten notes and online notes for giving me the best chance of documenting information (and ensuring my eyes don’t hurt from looking at a screen for too long). My Politics course here at Warwick currently involves one lecture and one seminar for each module every week. The lecture takes place before the seminar discussion on the same topic, with compulsory and recommended reading set to help guide the discussion.
This therefore offers the chance for three separate documents: lecture notes, reading notes and seminar notes. I write up my lecture and reading notes, each in a separate document. During a lecture, I type bullet points of the key arguments a lecturer makes on their PowerPoint slides and statements. Given my journalistic interests, I also try to ensure there aren’t too many large chunks of dense text which could make future revision harder.
Similarly, when partaking in university reading, I prioritise the essential reading that will frame any seminar discussion. Reading through a book or article, I bullet point the main reflections the writer is trying to make. Again, this will be helpful with longer essays. With both my lecture and reading notes typed and complete, I have these side by side on my computer when I arrive in a seminar.
However, I handwrite my seminar notes. Why? Well, the discussion tends to be more spontaneous meaning, thanks to my fast handwriting, I can make a variety of points. I also think it’s quite jarring to type over the voice of another student speaking and would find it distracting myself. Finally, despite leaving the school classroom years ago, being educated for over a decade to handwrite my notes in a classroom isn’t something that has gone away.
When an essay or exam approaches, I use the core lecture and reading notes as a foundation for expanding my revision. Essays naturally require a high level of supplementary reading, while exams are grounded in comprehending the main points of a topic. While my note-taking choices will be put to the real test this spring, the method of organisation I’ve chosen to adopt has helped me immensely.