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Stack of the old books. Credit: @olhasolodenko, via Freepik

Note-Taking

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In this note-taking section, you’ll learn how to turn meetings into transcripts, map concepts on a virtual whiteboard, track time-stamped material, and more.

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Tips from Our Learning Specialists

  • Use one note-taking system consistently. The best note-taking system is the one that makes sense to you. Consider drawn, handwritten, audio-recorded, speech-to-text, or typed notes. 
  • Decide how color-coding, formatting, a symbol key, and  other organizing principles will provide structure and clarity across all your notes.
  • Synthesize notes from your reading and your lectures.  For example, leave space after each section of notes from your reading to add related lecture notes.
  • Give yourself time after each lecture to process and/or reorganize your notes.  Work with the material when it’s fresh in your mind; most forgetting happens right after you learn new material. 

Templates

Sites and Apps

Videos

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Additional Resources at Stanford

  • Sign up for a drop-in session with us! With a Learning Lab Learning Specialist, you can talk about these strategies in more depth, personalize the approaches to suit your needs, and be supported as you practice.
  • Academic Skills Coaching

Research

  • Stefanou, C., Hoffman, L., & Vielee, N. (2008). Note-taking in the college classroom as evidence of generative learning. Learning Environments Research, 11(1), 1-17. Read the article here.
    • Copying down everything a teacher is saying during lecture places a heavy cognitive       burden on students. Downloading available powerpoint slides and taking more judicious notes should free up cognitive resources for generative learning. In other words, your notes should prioritize a “higher level analysis of new information, making connections with prior knowledge, and noting interesting points that go beyond the visual displays” (Stefanou et al., 2008). 

  • Pardini, Eleanor A., Domizi, Denise P., Forbes, Daniel A., and Pettis, Gretchen V. (2005). Parallel note-taking: a strategy for effective use of webnotes. Journal of College Reading and Learning, v35 n2 p38-55. 18 pp. Read the article here.

    • Parallel note-taking is a method by which students synthesize the lecture notes provided by a professor with their own lecture notes.  Students print notes from the professor before class and hand write their own notes on the reverse side of the paper.  Students draw a vertical line on the reverse side of the paper, creating two columns.  The wide column is used to record information on the topic provided orally that goes above and beyond that which the professor has provided in writing; the narrow column is used to record the students’ annotations, summaries, and anticipated test questions.  This method of note-taking combines the benefits of elaboration, encoding, and active learning.  [Learning Lab note: Parallel note-taking can be used in a digital format as well: consider Notability or any digital tool that allows you to align the written notes from the professor, your own notes from the lecture, and your annotations/summaries/questions.]

  • Khan, Anam Ahmad, et al. Using voice note-taking to promote learners’ conceptual understanding (2020). School of Computing and Information Systems, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. Read the article here.
    • Technological advances in note-taking such as utilizing keyboards or digital ink (such as apps like Notability or GoodNotes) and voice (such as Otter.ai and Dragon Dictation) still require more thorough investigation on their benefits for learning. In this study, participants chose one of two note-taking options; either utilizing keyboarding or voice transcriptions and then were asked to evaluate the efficacy of the method they selected on a formative assessment. The researchers used mixed-effect models to examine the effectiveness of each note-taking device and then evaluated the participants’ notes for comprehension and their reflection of the experience. The results of this study demonstrate advantages in using voice tools for note-taking, which may predict that students will take more thorough and comprehensive notes using these forms of technology.