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How to take useful notes

Taking notes can be a useful way to help you remember the things you have learned. When you are writing notes, you are already processing the information in new ways. You can take notes for different purpose during your studies. If you become aware of the different ways to take notes and you find the methods that matches your ways of studying – then you can save a lot of time  and at the same time remember a larger part of what you read.

As a eyeopener we have tried to list some of the different ways, that you can try to incorporate notetaking and processing of your knowledge in the different parts your everyday studylife.

Learn more about taking notes

Taking notes while reading a text

When you read a text, it can be helpful to take notes to help highlight the important sections in the text. You can do this by highlighting words or sentences, or by writing notes in the margins.

No matter how you do it, you should not overdo it - less is more. If you create too many highlights, it will be difficult to return to the text later on and easily access the information you are looking for.

A god method could be to write notes in the margin for every 2-4 pages – this way you don’t risk taking to many notes and by doing this you will also have a processed more of the text before writing in the margin.

You can also help your own studying and notetaking by “making your own questions for the text”. By during this you can help your notetaking, because you then only need to write down aspect that are important in relation to this question. A way of during this is to ask questions based on the different headlines: What is X / How does X relate to Y – or doing it based on the outline in your curriculum.

Notes during a lecture

During a lecture, notes can help you focus and process the new knowledge you have acquired from your lecturer. You should not write everything the lecturer says - only the most important aspects. Writing too much down can make you lose focus. It is important to remember that you are writing the notes to yourself.

It is not a matter of how perfectly they are formulated or how well-written, but rather how they allow you to revisit the content of the lecture later. Therefore, it can be helpful to use abbreviations and illustrations in your notes.

You can also use your notes from the lectures to test your understanding of the given text. Maybe your notes from the lecture indicates, that you should read the text again, because your understanding of the text differ from your lecturer/class discussion. Hereby you can use your notetaking as an active tool for studying.

It is also important to dare trying new ways of taking notes – is it most beneficial for you to take notes on your PC or taking handwritten notes?

Taking notes when preparing for an exam

When you are preparing for an exam, notes can help you get an overview of theories and literature, just as it will help you keep focus on the most important parts of the syllabus. It will help you structure the knowledge you have.

Making a Mind Map could help you to get a better insight into your own knowledge – are you lacking some knowledge when you look at your mind map and should therefore study some more within certain parts of your curriculum?

This way you can also get an insight into your own knowledge - are lacking some knowledge when you look at your mind map and should therefore study some more within certain parts of your curriculum?

It is correct, “good” notes are important when preparing for an exam – but you shouldn’t forget, that what you are tested in at an exam is tested on your ability to communicate and present your knowledge. It could be a good idea not just to perceive your “notes” as tool to remembering, but also as a way of preparing your argumentation – so try reading your notes out loud or rewrite them, as a way of processing the information.

Notes during group work

Taking notes during group work is a way to document your work process. This way, you can always come back and see what you have previously decided in your group.

Taking notes in groups can serve as a way to always be on the same page and avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. You can take turns being the note-taker.


A mind map

Mind map

Try to make a Mind Map over you knowledge - this exercise can help you to structure your knowledge and help you with "blindspots".

Magnifying glass for investigating on top of a book

Processing your notes

It is important that you work actively with your notes, so you better can remember them and hereby can help your own exam preparation.

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