Students too often undervalue their own work. The effort put into taking notes on books and lectures, into writing essays and drafting exam answers, is effort well spent. You should conserve it by organising and keeping your work so that you can refer back to it and develop it.
A4 loose leaf note books. You might have one book that is for current work, that you take into college, and other books that you keep at home for filing material by subject.
Computer files arranged in a directory tree structure. You can keep this on a computer hard disk , with a copy on a floppy disk.
Decide how to organise your written material.
You will need somewhere to keep:
Consider arranging your filing system alphabetically by subject: Freud, Kant, Wollstonecraft, Feminist theories, Adam Smith, Town Planning - etc.
Think about how you will cross-reference: You could crossreference by notes in a margin, you could use a card index to cross-reference or you could make a cross referencing system on a computer file<.
Before you take notes it is as well to think about how you intend to use them.
To consolidate your learning: What you hear or read only once, you are not very likely to remember. Taking notes, reading them through, and rewriting them where this is helpful, will help you to take possession of the knowledge you have gained.
To create a database: You can use your notes as a source of information for your computer database or a card index. A computer database is like a card index that does not run out of space on its electronic cards.
To prepare essays: You will want to refer to your notes when writing essays. When you do, it will be important that your notes are referenced, so that you know which parts are quotes (and where from) and what the various notes are based on.
To revise for exams: You will use your notes to revise before exams. For this you may want to write out a new set of notes that lists the main points you want to remember in a succinct and memorable way.
To prepare reports: Writing a Report on an experiment, empirical research, a field trip, or something that you have designed, will require a variety of different types of notes.
Note FormThe form you take notes in will vary with circumstances. Two useful forms are bullet points and Spidergrams.
Bullet Points Bullet points are:
You will use note forms for taking down key points in a lecture. But you will also use them to analyse a situation. You may, for example, work out what different writers are saying about some issues by listing the issues under each writer's name, with a note for each issue giving the writer's opinion.
Essays, and other forms of academic writing, are not written as notes. They are written as continuous prose, with sentences arranged in paragraphs. It is valuable to practice converting continuous prose into notes, and notes into continuous prose. You will also gain from thinking about the advantages of each.
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