7 Ways to Take Better Notes, According to Experts

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
April 16, 2024 at 10:44PM UTC
Taking notes is a helpful way of recalling a lecture or studying up for a test. It can also help you to keep track of your daily responsibilites and ensure that you're checking off your entire to-do list.
But not all notes are created equally. A whole lot of research has gone into the art of note-taking. And here's what scientists say can help you to take even more valuable notes that you'll remember.

1. Write as much as you can by hand.

Writing as much by hand is a lot better for note-taking than writing on a computer or a phone, for example. That's because taking notes by hand benefits recall, according to researchers. 
Published in a paper in Psychological Science, called “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note-Taking” the research finds that, while laptop users take almost twice the amount of notes as those writing longhand, they score significantly lower in conceptual tests. 
“While more notes are beneficial, at least to a point, if the notes are taken indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content, as is more likely the case on a laptop, the benefit disappears,” the report reads.

2. Include as many details as possible.

Details are important. Educational psychologist Kenneth Kiewra told Inc. that, contrary to popular believe, taking in-depth notes is key. She says that most of us are pretty skilled at jotting down the main points of a lecture or presentation, what she refers to as Level 1 Learning. But diving deeper can help us to get a better understanding of the content. 
Kiewra told Inc. that, in a study, students were able to retain 80 percent of the main ideas in a lesson, but they recalled less and less as they went down to Level 2, 3 and 4 Learning, which is why it's important to take more, deeper notes in those learning situations. Only 13 percent of students, however, write down examples, though examples are a surefire way to comprehend new ideas.

3. Draw explanatory pictures and diagrams.

Picture-based note-taking can help those of us who are visual learners to remember their notes. When it comes time to take a test, for example, it may be easier to recall a picture or a diagram in our notepads than it is to remember exactly what we jotted down in bullet points.

4. Revise your notes as often as you can.

Revising your notes as often as you can is also important, according to Kiewra, Inc. reports. 
"You should revise your notes as soon as possible after a lecture, meeting or workshop, or even during the event if there's a pause or break," Inc. author Minda Zetlin writes. "Read over your notes, Kiewra advises, using them to try to recall what was said. Write down any additional details or points of information or ideas that reading your notes helps bring to mind. (It'll help if you leave plenty of space in your original notes for these additions.) Your revised notes will contain a lot more information and detail than your notes taken in the moment did."

5. Use apps to help you.

While handwriting your notes will help you to recall them, there are resourceful apps out there than can help you to take notes, as well. If your notes are more to help you get through your day-to-day, for example, there's a wealth of to-do list apps that are automated to carry whatever you don't check off today over to tomorrow's list. Likewise, you can add automated, recurring duties in some apps. These apps also lay out your responsibilities in an easy-to-absorb format. This can all make daily note-taking much simpler, automated and easier to access.

6. Record while you take notes, too.

Recording a lecture, presentation or meeting while you take notes can prove helpful. This way, if you want to dive deeper and take more detailed notes, you can always revisit the recording after the lecture, presentation or meeting is over. You don't need to worry about jotting down every last word in the middle of it, which will make it harder to absorb what you're writing down anyway. By recording the information, you can focus on taking notes by hand while resting assured that you'll have the option to write down what you may miss or the nitty gritty details later.
Just make sure that you leave a space between entries so that you can fill in any missing information down the line.

7. Use abbreviations.

It can be difficult to keep up with note-taking during a lecture that's moving along quickly. But if you use abbreviations that you'll later understand, you can quicken your pace.
"Once you have decided on a format for taking notes, you may also want to develop your own system of abbreviations," John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot of Step by Step to College and Career Success reportedly told ThoughtCo.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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