Friday, August 15, 2008

Attending Lectures: Note Taking

Review and reading outline
Reviewing what has been taught in the previous lecture helps to get us ready for the one that is going to start.

This is the difficult part because most of us lack the discipline to do so. (I'm one of the guilty ones!) Spend some time before the lecture to read through the outline for the present lecture to mentally prepare yourself on what to expect. Believe me, it helps! :)

Make use of your listening skills
You should practice listening and writing at the same time so that you wouldn't miss the next point while trying to put the previous sentences in words. Try this practicing by copying down what the conversations while watching movie/TV dramas… this is one of the crazy things I do!

Summarizing what is said
I don't deny that you may miss out certain points by summarizing. It is of course preferable to copy what everything that the lecturer said but it is highly impossible to do so unless you have got super writing speed. Also summarizing aids in quick review in future it is easier to recall what you have summarized in your own words than the exact words of the lecturer.
By having the ability to summarize, you also show understanding of what he is trying to bring across. Always be a 'thinking' student! Copy intelligiently.

Headings and subheadings
Headings helps to organize the main ideas and subheadings helps to categorize the examples and supporting ideas. Always define you headings and suheadings properly and neatly.

Don't forget his examples
Never leave them out, those examples usually come from years of teaching experience and have been proven to be effective. They'll come in handy during examinations and you are likely to recall them more easily.
Come up with personal examples too. When I was doing a sociology module, I sat in the canteen and observe how guys and gals interact to come up with examples on interaction between genders.

Colour codes
Colour codes works like headings and subheadings but they help to bring out keywords and differentiate examples from facts more effective than just plain words.
Colour codes are more eye-catching and hence easier to recognize. For example you can have black for facts copied, blue for examples and red for additional points made by the lecturer.
One thing I noticed is that gals seem to be more creative when it comes to colour codes than guys 'cos guys usually only have 3 colours on their notes… blue, black and red.

Shorthand
You should develop you own system of shorthand and this will help quicken your writing pace and it saves mental effort. BUT make sure such shorthand has only one meaning…
Here are some possible ways of creating shorthand…
a. Leave out periods in standard abbreviations
cf = compare dept = department

b. Use the first syllable of a word
Cap = capitalLab = laboratory

c. Use first syllable and the first letter of the second syllable
Subj = subject Pres = presentation

d. Use letters of the word just enough to recognize the word
Info = information
Max = maximium
Diff = difference

e. Omit vowel
Ppt = Powerpoint
Gvt = government
Estmt = estimate

f. Use g for ing ending
Chkg = checking

g. Use apostrophe in place of letters
Cont'd = continued
Gov't = government

h. Use symbols
& = and
$ = money
w/o = without

Sitting close to the lecturer
This helps to keep your attention and avoid distraction from other people around you. Sitting near the front also helps you focus. In situations of very big lecture groups or rowdy lecture mates, it helps to stay close and focused to maximise your lecture experience. Sitting close to the lecturer also makes sure that we can hear clearly and of course it makes sure that we won't doze off… haha but you probably know by now that the best spot to doze off is rite under the lecturer's nose (my friend calls it the 'blind spot'!)

Having a positive attitude
You may not agree with what the lecturer said but don't just shut off. Listen to what he has to offer and jot down what you disagree with at the same time. Sometimes I get agitated when I do not agree with the lecturer and once I tried to rebut him mentally, I realized that I lost track of the main points he made. Finally, experience told me never to enter the lecture thinking that it is going to be boring; if u do the chances are it's going to be as boring as you expect it to be.

Paying close attention
I used to think that I can remember everything I hear during the lecture but I never do. Without processing what I hear, I find that I will forget what is said in a short while. Listen and not just hear was something my senior told me. And yes… listening involves paying close attention to what is said, forming ideas and remembering the facts.

Copying from transparencies & PowerPoint slides
What is displayed as part of the presentation is likely to be the essence of the entire lecture and what you are expected to know. So be 'kiasu' a bit, copy down everything that is written out by the lecturer especially if it is the 'fill in the blank' kind of lecture notes.
This is the perfect kind of notes… lots of information and very little copying!
Pay special attention to those lecturers who like to scribble on their transparencies. The things they scribble are a lot times, important concepts or information which have been left out of their lecture notes

Format of the notes
If your lecture notes are those 'fill in the blank' type, it does not mean that you need only to fill in the blanks. It is simply not enough!
Make sure that you leave ample space to add in extra points the lecturer made during lecture. Pay special attention to examples he or she presents.
If possible, keep some post-its in your bag so that you can add in notes while keeping your lecture notes neat. If you get one of those idealistic lecturer who believes that 'it's best to train the undergrads to be independent', you may one to use the format below. It's called the Cornell format.
The main idea in keeping such formats is to leave lots of space for reviews and you can also add in notes from textbooks.

Comparing and sharing notes
After lecture, it is best if you can compare and share what you have copied with your friends. This allows you to add in points you missed out (eg when u dozed off or busy chatting about the cute guy sitting at the last row or that babe who winked at you during tutorial just now) and at the same time clarify points that you are unclear with (eg when you didn't catch that foreign lecturer's accent).
Reviewing the notes immediately aids in transforming into long term memory.

- This article is syndicated content from Funkygrad.com. The writer, Jen, is studying Business at NUS. Also recommended is "Attending Lectures: Listening Skills ", by the same author.

1 comment:

Leslie Teo said...

wow, too long story la. i pengsan somewhere in the middle. :-0 but good job for posting it...

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