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How to enhance your note taking techniques

Student Health 101

Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 18:10

image notetaking

Photo by JoJo Rhinehart/Prospectus News

Students who develop a method to note taking that works for them are more likely to succeed in the classroom.

When it comes to getting the most out of your classes, there’s nothing more crucial to your ability to retain information and learn effectively than good, solid, old-fashioned note taking.

Note Taking and Retention

Note taking helps you engage with information and remember it. When you’re making notes, you’re processing the information twice: once as it’s being said and again as you’re writing it down. You end up retaining more information because you’re engaging with it on two levels.

It’s not a surprise, then, that students who take notes fare much better than those who don’t. This is because reviewing notes helps you move learned information from short-term to long-term memory, and also integrate new concepts with those you already know. Ultimately, studies indicate that academic performance in exams and paper writing improves when students take effective notes and consult them later.

Find Your Strategy

There are pros and cons for various note-taking methods. The key is to find some that work for you and use them


Jason Chou, assistant coordinator for upper division and graduate programs at the Academic Resource Center at the University of California, Riverside, believes that pen-and-paper note taking is beneficial. “Using a paper notebook is just as effective as using an electronic device for taking notes,” he says.

The majority of the respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey said they choose the old-fashioned, paper-and-pen method.

If your typing is faster than your penmanship, using a laptop or tablet computer can work, too, and it might be much quicker.


Audio recording is another option for note taking. It can be more convenient if you’re not a fast writer or typist, discussion is fast-moving, or you like to review the class again to pick up things you might have missed. Just make sure you ask your instructor before recording his or her lecture. If viewing a lecture online, consider recording both the audio and the visual components to revisit later if needed.

Navigating an hour and a half of audio can be a daunting task. To keep yourself from viewing or listening to the entire lecture again, be selective with what you record. Stay alert and turn your recording device on and off in order to capture the most important or complicated information.

If you’re a visual learner, you can “record” notes by taking a picture. Amy Baldwin, a student success instructor at Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock, Arkansas, says, “Many of my students take photos of the board.”

Some people find it extremely helpful to write things in various colors. This can help you categorize different types of information or highlight the most important points.

The Cornell Method

One immensely popular way of taking notes is the Cornell Method, which has you organize different types of note in various locations and colors. The method incorporates several note-taking strategies such as summation, examples, definitions, and asking questions.

Paige Ruschhaupt, lead writing tutor at the University of Houston-Victoria in Texas, says, “Cornell notes are arranged in a way that allows you to organize and find important information more easily. You can use them during a lecture and while you read assigned chapters in your textbooks, writing down main points, like vocabulary words and important dates.”

Note-Taking Apps

Now, I know what you’re thinking: It’s the 21st century. Who’s even using pens and paper anymore? Well, fear not, as there are a ton of helpful apps to support your note-taking capabilities. Here are some to check out:


This app, an Internet browser add-on, lets you highlight and post sticky notes in online text. 


By far the most popular note-taking app, Evernote allows you to store notes online in the cloud. This means that even if you lose your phone or laptop, all your notes are still sleeping soundly online. Plus, you can access them anywhere, a convenient feature.

There’s no harm in trying out some different methods to see what works for you.

Whatever you choose, just remember that being engaged in class and actively cataloging the information is the first step toward brilliant, brain-expanding notes.

Students can access the Parkland College Student Health 101 magazine online at Copyright 2013 Student Health 101

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