How To Take Notes From a Lecture
Oct 19, 2010 Study Skills 2953 Views
Have you ever asked two people who sat in the same lecture, to comment on what they heard from the speaker? Chances are, you will get two different perspectives. They may overlap, but because we "hear" with our own understanding, interpreting all the while, what we actually hear may be slightly different from what the speaker intended. If you're a student, then you have to know both how to hear what the speaker wanted you to know and what to do with it, but there is a simple solution to doing both while not compromising what is actually said.
Students everywhere will tell you that they are told to take notes. Many, however, don't. It seems silly, difficult, or just not necessary, and so students tend to skip this step. But note-taking is the first step in understanding what the teacher or speaker wanted you to know. The reason for that is that when you take notes, you are actually recording the words of the speaker, as well as their phrases, and when you do this, you don't have to rely on your own interpretation. You have their actual words. But there is an additional element to note-taking. Going beyond the speaker allows you to begin the interpretation part, or the "why do I care" part, and this is where the learning happens.
A good note-taking system is two-fold because of this. The first step is to listen attentively to the words and the emphasis that the speaker puts on them. The speaker or teacher will naturally emphasize the ideas that they want you to understand. You will hear it in their voice. When you notice a teacher using extra emphasis or repetition, be sure to jot down their exact words, as closely as you can. You won't be able to write out entire paragraphs of what the teacher says, but the teacher also will not be able to stress an entire paragraph's worth of phrases, so you won't have to worry. All that you need are the phrases and concepts that are exaggerated in the speaker's delivery as well as any facts that he or she gives to support the statements. Because you are listening attentively, you will also see the flow of the information better. You will not be stressed by trying to write down every word that is said.
Assuming you've followed the first step, which as stated before is not difficult, but often omitted, the second part of a good note-taking system is to review your notes and add in your information. This happens outside of the lecture or classroom, and should happen later the same day if at all possible. For instance, after you return home, review your notes and jot down what you were reminded of during a particular point, or if it was familiar to you, what else it seemed similar to. List your thoughts on how it relates to the rest of what you are studying, etc. Look for patterns and connections at this point. Also, note whether you agree or disagree and look for ways to support your opinions from the other class materials at your disposal. This helps you to mentally fill in the pieces of information that will come to mind, as well as giving you a chance to see the concepts again. You will naturally find that your mind engages with the material a bit quicker this time, now that it's not new to you, and you will remember the material more readily, too.
Taking notes from a speaker or teacher during a lecture isn't difficult or silly. It actually speeds up the learning process, making your study time lighter and less stressful. Don't omit this habit, and don't stop at just taking the notes. Remember to review them for added details, too.