You want to record as much information as possible while simultaneously trying to think about the main ideas. Use the following guidelines to help develop your own style.
Focus on the main ideas and understanding key concepts.
At the very least, you should record the main ideas of the material. If you have planned ahead, you will have anticipated these and have them ready to place as headings in your notes. When a professor is working through a problem on the board, pay attention to the logic used to solve the problem. You will be able to find the details of the problem later.
Note material to which the instructor draws attention or gives clues that he or she feels is important.
Look for clues that highlight material the instructor feels is important. Attending class regularly and paying attention to what the instructor emphasizes-through what they choose to write on the board or when they change their tone of voice or when they use media to elaborate on an idea-allows you to determine what they might find important. This allows you to interpret the instructor's lecture for keys to significant material that he or she will focus the exams on.
Concentrate on writing down information that is not easily accessible elsewhere.
Do not try to write down everything the professor says. Your head will explode! If the professor mentions details that can be easily looked up in the textbook or other sources, do not write them down; simply write a note so that you will remember to look them up later.
Develop techniques for abbreviating and paraphrasing.
You can use standard abbreviations or develop your own set individualized to each class. Be careful, however, to use abbreviations that you will later understand. Also, try not to write unnecessary words. Do not write "There are two types of …" Write "2 types …." Use symbols, i.e., up or down arrows for increase or decrease, etc.
Write your notes in your own words as much as possible.
This is part of the memory-encoding process. Trying to hold the professor's words in your short-term memory is much more difficult than holding the ideas. You do not want to remember the words; you want to remember the information.
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