Note Taking Techniques and Strategies

Note: The note taking techniques and strategies outlined in this page only apply to linear notes.

Linear notes are the form of note taking that over 90% of people choose to use. The only problem with these notes is that they only use half of your brain! This is because linear notes do not use colour, they are logical, in sequence and of course - linear.

To make your linear notes more effective you need to make your notes more right side friendly by implementing some of the right brain characteristics to your notes.

Usually at school, university or wherever you may be, you take notes in linear form. Don't get me wrong - note taking in linear form is not bad. Some people even like this note taking technique better than mind maps. This may be because you're just plain used to it and you don't want to break out of your routine. Or maybe you like the structure of linear notes better. Target However, if you don't have a better excuse, please take some time to go and check out the mind map. Not to mention, there are many other note taking techniques out there too.

The typical, and definitely most common structure for notes would be something like this: You have your heading at the top of the page, underlined, in a nice big size. Following that come your main points (these are usually bullets, but can be dashes, asterisks and diamonds along with many other things). Under those main points are your sub ideas, usually in sentences with a medium to high degree of detail, these are usually indented. Then the cycle continues - main point/heading, detail etc.

The problem with this is that it is boring and it doesn't excite your brain much. If you are note taking for an exam, this is not the best way to remember as you are only using half of your potential brain power to remember. I will show how you can work to spice up your notes, to make them simply, better!

Taking Better Notes

  1. Colour. Your brain likes colour, so try to use a variety of colours and as much of it as you can. You can use highlighters, felt tip pens (textas) and colour pencils: Highlight the headings to make them stand out, draw symbols and diagrams that help you make links and associations (remember, a picture is worth a thousand words). Make them appealing and neat, brighten them up so that you want to come back and revise them.

    Colour is by far one of the most most important note taking strategies, for colour is beneficial to your brain in a countless number of ways. I'm sure you've heard enough about colour, but I just can't stress the importance of applying it to your notes.

  2. Do not write in full sentences. Mainly because your brain doesn't need to remember all of the other unnecessary words to get the picture. For example, I could say: The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Or I could write: Black death - one deadliest pandemics history, Europe 1348 - 1350.

    Do you see what I mean, I used 19 words in the first sentence and only 9 in the second! Plus, I still got the message across. Think of all the time you could save without writing all of the unnecessary words.

  3. Draw red boxes. Red seems to stand out with your brain. Writing down that formula for finding density that you have to remember? Draw a red box around it. Not many people know about the importance of red boxes but it is a very helpful note taking technique.
  4. List them in a logical order and sort them within sub headings. This gives your brain the big picture idea of your notes. A lot of the time when people read an article, they skim through to find the headings to see what the article is about. This is exactly what your brain does.
  5. Now finally, personalisation, the note taking strategy that most people miss! Make them yours. Notes shouldn't be written to get good marks off the teachers. They should be written so that you get the most out of them. A great example of this is by using something called mnemonics. Mnemonics are beyond note taking techniques as they are one of the best memory tools. These are little tricks that help you remember something. One of the most well known mnemonics is - i before e except after c. I was taught this in junior school and it has always helped me with my spelling.

    A personal example of a mnemonic I use really made what I wanted to remember stick: I always used to get confused between solute and solvent. In our science practicals, we always used to add a solid into a liquid such as zinc sulphate into water.

    So I related the word solute with solut (which sounds like solid), and from then on I always remembered that the solute is the substance that there is less of, because in our practicals there was always less of the solid. Don't worry if you don't get that. The whole point of mnemonics is that they help you and you understand them.

Well done, you are the bees-knees on note taking techniques. You are now one step ahead of the rest of the pack. Try to use these note taking strategies and implement them into your daily life. You will reap the rewards.

Return to note taking from note taking techniques and strategies