How to Be Effective in Taking Down Notes

Focus is the key to taking down notes effectively. Only take down notes that are new to you. What’s the point of writing down the things you already know? Furthermore, take down key points that are relevant and can be used later on. That being said, there are two major things you need to understand when taking down notes namely –

  • New
  • Relevance

Taking down notes effectively means you have actually done the reading yourself. The information you need to take note includes –

  • Dates for your notes to be in chronology and understand the entire event
  • Names for you to associate the events or ideas better
  • Theories which essentially are the main key points
  • Definition of things that is new to you
  • Points of arguments and debates such as pros and cons, criticisms of an idea and both sides of the coin.
  • Illustrations and exercises

There are still things you need to take down. If your professor hardly writes on board then everything he writes in there should be written down unless the information is deemed self-evident or known. Also, listen to what your professor is saying. Anything relevant to the subject or topic that is not found in any printed document, text or books should be written down.

Your classmates may give information that is relevant as well. Try to capture their comments or questions. This will help you understand the entire topic later on.

Lastly, write down all your questions as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor and get you the answers you need.

Don’t forget to evaluate your professor

Since semesters are over one last thing you can do is rate your professors. To help out other students who are going to take your class, let them know about the instructor. (This is also helpful if you still haven’t registered for the spring.)

RateMyProfessors.com and PickAProf.com are two websites that have a huge amount of reviews. While PickAProf isn’t free, it’s much easier to navigate and is only $5. It also has much better features, like grade histories. I’ve left reviews of each of my professors at both websites, with details of their grading/test policies and anything else a future student would like to know in advance.

Evaluations are usually done the last class day before the final and they’re a great way to get the teacher to hear your thoughts about the class. I enjoyed filling out professor evaluations because they actually read them and take most seriously. My mom teaches at a large university in Texas and she gave me some advice to make sure the prof takes me seriously:

  1. Explain yourself. Don’t be vague and just say “You suck!”
  2. If things need to be improved, list them and be specific. This is your chance to let them know that the absence policy is too strict.
  3. They will listen to criticism, if it makes sense and seems appropriate. They’re not going to change a policy without a good reason (having no tests, for example).
  4. If you aren’t going to say anything constructive or helpful, just don’t fill out the eval. They’d rather get no feedback than someone who isn’t taking it seriously. By being silly, you take away from the weight of student opinions.
  5. Try to have decent handwriting so they can actually read what you write.

Subscribe to your professor’s feed…by making one

FeedYes I discovered a little known treasure today. FeedYes can make an RSS feed out of any website so you can use this for professors who insist you check their website on a regular basis.

FeedYes is a free service that requires registration. Setting up a feed is very easy, you just input the url address and a feed is created that you can add to any reader. Not all websites will work with this, there has to be so many links, but usually if a professor requires students to check his or her website often, there will a good enough amount of content. I was able to successfully create a feed for my mom’s website (who’s a marketing professor) so now I’ll get know when she updates her site.

Pick a Prof

Right before registration, I was sent a letter about a website called Pick a Prof. For $10 a year or $5 for 4 months, it allows you to look at reviews other students have written about professors at your university. They offer additional services, which I haven’t seen in any other websites.

They have grade histories, a schedule planner, student reviews, and textbook pricing and exchange. The website does have a lot of information about the services they offer, but unfortunately, you can’t try anything out until you buy a subscription. It was very helpful when scheduling my classes because I wanted to make sure I could find time to work and study without being overloaded. I didn’t use the professor reviews this time because as freshmen, we were limited because of our first-year seminars and our advisers helped register us during orientation.

It also has a Facebook application that helps to find classes with your friends. The professor reviews are collected online, but also from end of semester evaluations. Grade histories are straight from university records, so they’re not biased in any way. I also love the schedule planner. Sometimes it’s hard to make sure you get the best times for classes and make sure you’re not going to mess yourself up. They’re planner gives you a view of what you can take when, how long it will last and make sure you have room for work, sports, etc.

Some universities even pay for you to use this service. My mom’s school, for example, lets you have free access to Pick a Prof if you can validate your school’s email.