You’ve probably heard it a million times: take good notes to get ahead in school and beyond. But have you ever stopped to think about what kind of note taking method works best for you? Or that one technique that might work for one class might not be the best for another?
The following note-taking methods provide five alternatives to the standard outlining method and can easily and effectively be implemented into your study routine. A tip: try not to get bogged down with the details of how to take notes correctly — rather, experiment with one or a couple different methods to find the right fit for you and your needs. Don’t be afraid to adapt the strategy to make it work for you!
The Outlining Method
You probably know this method well — it’s the standard way most students are taught to take notes. While it’s a great way to take notes, it doesn’t work well for everyone. Below, we provide you with some alternatives if the outlining method hasn’t worked for you in the past.
The Split-Page Method
Just as it sounds, the split-page method uses two sides of the page. Write your term (or question) on one side and definition on the other. Then when you’re ready to quiz yourself, fold your page in half, and “Voila!”: instant study guide.
The Q/E/C Method
The Q/E/C method provides a quick and easy framework to organize your notes. Write down your Q’s (Questions), provide your E’s (Evidence), and end with your C’s (Conclusions) to help synthesize your learning. When you’re done, you’ll also have a study guide to use in the preparation for a test or other assessment.
The Morse Code Method
Great for cataloguing information while reading: the morse code method uses symbols (dots “.” and lines “-”) to quickly categorize information into main ideas and supporting details. To employ this method, draw dots in the margins when you come across a main idea and dashes when supporting evidence is present. When you’re done with the reading, go back through and find your dots and dashes and synthesize the information into your own written notes.
Good for lectures, flow notes don’t have any specific structure, and can be used as you listen to a teacher speak. These can also be great for lectures that don’t have a clear path or organizational structure. As you listen and write, use lines, arrows, and other symbols to connect ideas. At the end of the lecture, review the notes and make any additional markings to help you synthesize the information. You may also use these free form jottings to create a more structured set of notes, which can also strengthen your understanding of the material presented and help with later studying.
The Sentence Method
Like the outlining method briefly reviewed above, the sentence method relies on an ordered list of important information. However, unlike the outlining method, the sentence method does not require indentations or the ability to understand the relationship between more and less important information. While reading, write down one sentence to summarize each paragraph. No indentations necessary! By writing notes this way, every paragraph is important and allows for the reader to see patterns and review the author’s argument in more specific ways.