How to Take Notes in College

By Haley Lux, Editor-in-Chief

Every morning students at Daemen University wake up, get ready, head to class, and ask themselves whether they should take notes and how.

For some, this means grabbing a notebook and their favorite pen; for others, it means pulling out their laptop, opening a document, and selecting the best font before beginning.

Others flip back and forth between the two, trying to find a good balance as they wonder if there is a proper way to take notes, what tricks are helpful, and which their peers prefer.

“I do prefer to type out my notes, mainly because it’s easier for me because I am on my laptop a lot,” said Katie Johnson, a senior English major.

Although a laptop is Johnson’s first choice when it comes to note-taking, she thinks handwriting is beneficial as well.

“Handwriting notes is definitely easier for memory, so sometimes I will go over it again even if I typed it and write it out just to kind of make sure I understand the concept,” Johnson said. 

When it comes to her favorite tricks, Johnson makes sure to always put the date of her notes and place vocabulary terms in bold. 

“If you have a textbook too, highlighting specific concepts throughout the book can be helpful,” Johnson said.

Regardless of whether you use a notebook or device, it’s important to review your notes more than once.
“Right after your note-taking process, go back and reread things while they’re still fresh in your mind, and highlight the most important key ideas,” said Hannah Donner, the writing specialist from the learning center.

An example of notes that are titled, dated, highlighted, and handwritten. Photo by Haley ux.

“Determine for yourself if typing or writing helps you retain information better. Sometimes it’s easiest to hand-write notes and then go back and type them afterward,” Donner said. 

According to Donner, different techniques can work better for some people than for others, but other suggestions are universal.

“Certain suggestions I recommend to everyone, such as: limit the distractions around you while you do it by silencing your phone and sitting somewhere quiet, always leave space to write questions for either yourself or your instructor as you go, and always find a way to summarize your notes in your own words by writing a quick summary for yourself at the end,” Donner said.

Overall, it isn’t the notebook versus the laptop but rather the quality of notes being taken as determined by each individual.

It’s important that students discover what works for them, how they are most comfortable taking notes, and ways they can stay engaged during the process so that they might have a greater chance at succeeding academically.

An article in College Teaching suggests that collaborative note-taking might be an effective method too, “…adopting collaborative note-taking into one’s course can foster a more democratic and inclusive classroom climate by sending the message, from the very first day, that students are members of a learning community and will play an active role in their own as well as their peers’ success in the course.”

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