How to be Successful without Really Trying - Study Strategies - Part 3: Note-taking and Note-logging

Updated: Aug 7

By: Mason Weupe

Now that we have learned some techniques on how to prepare for class, how do we record information? Take that notebook or tablet/laptop you have and prepare a table of contents. This entails numbering the pages of your notebook and leaving 2-3 pages at the beginning of the notebook for the table of contents. For virtual notes, organize your documents by setting the name of the document as the subject of the course and the date of the lecture and creating a folder that is the name of the class and the quarter/semester you took the class. This is a critical step so later you are not scrambling wondering where and when you took notes. This takes no longer than 2 minutes of your time but can be tremendously helpful even years later when a topic is reintroduced to you in a different class. Many times have I referred to notes from a class I took previously, saving me the time of making study material over again.

Next, how do we take notes? The key here is organization. Keeping notes in a way that they are easy to read is key to making your life easier later. Writing notes randomly with no particular strategy can confuse you later to the point of rendering the notes useless. Again, every page will start with the title of the topic and the date you took the notes, which will also be recorded in the table of contents. Next, we start with headings, subheadings, notes, then summaries. This way of organizing makes it much easier to refer back to information saving you A LOT of time and stress later. This way of organization also helps you make connections and follow the logic of the information instead of getting lost in the sauce!

For example:

The Respiratory System: How does breathing work?


  1. Muscles relax, lungs expand, volume increases, pressure decreases from atmospheric 760mmhg to "negative" pressure 757mmhg. Air is drawn into the lungs and pressure rises to "positive" 763mmhg.

2. Exhalation

  1. The excess pressure and muscle contraction force air out of the lungs returning pressure to normal

As you can see, if I had a question on my homework that said something like, “How does exhalation occur in humans?” I could easily refer back to my notes and pinpoint the answer. You can also see that my notes are in my own words and not necessarily perfect sentences. Instead of copying everything the PowerPoint has on it or everything the teacher says, I try and summarize only the key information (information I think will be tested, and moments when the teacher raises their voice/underlines something) in my own words. This way there is less information I have to record, less information I have to remember, and I will remember what I put into my own words much easier than a textbook definition. I can go on much longer on note-taking alone but you can see the organization, summarizing of notes/only recording important information, and putting notes into your own words will allow you not only to do less work but to also find information much easier later.

Put these strategies to the test and come back next Sunday for more to try out!

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