There are many ways to take notes, and you wish to learn more about the novel approaches. I commend you on your quest to do what your high school teachers lacked the capacity, knowledge, or sovereign permission to do: teach you how to teach yourself. No one, note-taking method is completely superior to the others. Some are better than others for particular situations, subjects, classes, or lecturers.
The Cornell Method
This method was invented by Walter Pauk decades ago. Many people are never taught this method and it’s really a shame.
1. Record: During the lecture, use the note-taking column to record the
lecture using telegraphic sentences. (Cornell University)
2. Questions: As soon after class as possible, formulate questions based on
the notes in the right-hand column. Writing questions helps to clarify
meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen
memory. Also, the writing of questions sets up a perfect stage for exam-studying
later. (Cornell University)
3. Recite: Cover the note-taking column with a sheet of paper. Then, looking
at the questions or cue-words in the question and cue column only, say
aloud, in your own words, the answers to the questions, facts, or ideas
indicated by the cue-words. (Cornell University)
4. Reflect: Reflect on the material by asking yourself questions, for example:
“What’s the significance of these facts? What principle are they based on?
How can I apply them? How do they fit in with what I already know?
What’s beyond them? (Cornell University)
5. Review: Spend at least ten minutes every week reviewing all your previous
notes. If you do, you’ll retain a great deal for current use, as well as, for the
exam. (Cornell University)
The Feynman Notebook & KWL Method
The Feynman technique goes along with the K(now) W(want) L(earn) technique. KWL is self-explanatory: write three sections—what you know, what you want to know, and what you want to learn. This technique isn’t as practical as the others, but it does have the benefit of allowing you to properly review the information before a test.
The Feynman (Want) Technique
1. Choose Your Concept
The first step is to choose the concept you want to understand. Take a blank piece of paper and write the name of that concept at the top of the page. (Scott H. Young)
2. Pretend You’re Teaching the Idea to a New Student
The second step is to write out an explanation, as if you were teaching it to someone who didn’t understand the subject. This is crucial because in explaining to yourself the ideas you already understand, as well as the ones you don’t, you gain a better understanding and pinpoint exactly the details you don’t understand. (Scott H. Young)
3. Whenever You Get Stuck, Go Back to the Book
Whenever you get stuck, go back to the reference materials, lectures or a teacher assistant and reread or relearn the material until you do get it enough that you can explain it on the paper. (Scott H. Young)
4. Simplify and Create Analogies
Wherever you create a wordy or confusing explanation, try to either simplify the language, or create an analogy to understand it better (Scott H. Young)
The SQ3R is a great notetaking method for getting a head start on what material you need to know. You’re able to get a good look at what’s ahead of you for the rest of the semester.
- Survey: Skim over the main parts of the books, syllabus, and any other material. Look at the table of contents, titles, headings, captions, bolded sections, and terms in the back of the book, all to understand the bigger picture. You’re looking to formulate concepts and main ideas out of the material.
- Question: Turn what you surveyed into questions. These questions should come from the ideas and concepts you gathered. Translate these questions from the titles, chapters, etc., too.
- Read Actively: Mark up your books, syllabus, study guides, etc. Write notes and new questions in the margins. Underline, highlight, draw obscenities—anything to make it more interactive.
- Recite: Put everything into your own words. Read things aloud and rewrite. Try to recite the information from memory.
- Review: Take the material and attempt to study it using multiple methods (e.g., flashcards).
PQRST-REAP Combined Method
These methods go well together, so they’ve been combined.
- Review: The student looks at the topic to be learned by glancing over the major headings or the points in the syllabus. (Wikipedia)
- Question: The student formulates questions to be answered following a thorough examination of the topic(s). (Wikipedia)
- Read: The student reads through the related material, focusing on the information that best relates to the questions formulated earlier. (Wikipedia)
- Encode: Paraphrase the idea from the author’s perspective to the student’s own words. (Wikipedia)
- Annotate: Annotate the section with critical understanding and other relevant notes. (Wikipedia)
- Summary: The student summarizes the topic, bringing his or her own understanding into the process. This may include written notes, spider diagrams, flow diagrams, labeled diagrams, mnemonics, or even voice recordings. (Wikipedia)
- Test: The student answers the questions drafted earlier, avoiding adding additional questions that might distract or change the subject. (Wikipedia)
- Ponder: Ponder about what they read through thinking, discussing with others and reading related materials. (Wikipedia)
The Sentence Method
This won’t be new information to anyone, but you can and should incorporate generic methods with the novel methods.
Each new thought gets a separate line where you write down the topic and then record the data from the lecturer. You’re writing down the sentences as best you can in a concise, speedily manner to try and capture how the speaker presented the material, not just the material itself. Review them as soon as possible. Transfer it to a more visual, note method or use a visual aid when you transfer the material to a different note system.
The Outlining Method
This system might be well-known, but it can be combined with the other techniques listed to make a type of hybrid.
You can use Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, bullet points, arrows, diamonds, hyphens, tildes, pilcrow (paragraph) marks, vertical (pipe) bars, asterisks, etc.—to create main, topic headers. These are all formatted vertically. You then indent as you add sub-headers to the header topics. Indent on each sub-header. When a disparate topic comes along, go back to the edge. It’s similar to Reddit’s conversation layout.
Wikipedia more or less defines the note-taking pattern:
I. Main topic idea
- Detail/supporting fact
- Detail/supporting fact
- B. Subtopic…
II. Second main topic
- A. Subtopic…
You generate headers and subheaders until you have information that cannot be categorized under the header. When that happens, you create a new, main header.
A reverse outline is an outline made from an existing work [e.g. syllabus or study guide]. Reverse outlining is like reverse engineering a document. The points or topics are extracted from the work, and are arranged in their order of presentation, by section, in the outline. Once completed, the outline can be filled in and rearranged as a plan for an improved version of the document. (Wikipedia)