Organized Charm: Note-Formatting Resource

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Note-Formatting Resource

I was recently asked to share a post on how I format my notes. It’s pretty straightforward the way that I do it, but I’ll do my best to make it sound interesting!

If I’m in class, I kind of just scribble away quickly with a mechanical pencil… making sure to include all examples and maybe draw a quick graph if I think it will help me remember the material. These are my really quickly-written, really sloppy-looking notes. I use a lot of abbreviations, bullet points, and paraphrasing so that I can keep up with the PowerPoint/professor. It's never fun to be that person in class that everyone waits for as they copy the entire slide word-for-word! 

Once I get home, I rewrite them into more logical, colorful notes that I will actually be able to read in the future. In the photo below, old notes look the ones on the left and the more-organized, rewritten notes look like the ones on the right. The ones on the right get saved and used as future study guides.

When I rewrite them, I start at the top of the page (naturally) by writing the chapter/content title at the top center and the date in the top right corner. This is so that, when I'm flipping through my notes, I can quickly look for a particular chapter, date, or topic... which saves a lot of time in the future!

Then I begin writing the major headings/slide titles/topics on the left side of the page (by that red line that’s on notebook paper… the margin line, maybe?). I used pink in this example, because it stands out the most to me, but you can choose whichever color you like best (obviously). I used to write the title in a different color, but now I like the title, date, and major points to be the same color.

If there are numbers or bullet points for the major headers (1., 2., 3.,), I put those to the left of the red line. If there aren't, then I just don't put anything over there. This is just helpful for things that may have steps (like Bloom's Taxonomy for you education majors). It helps me remember for tests!

Then I just start filling in the information under each heading/topic by rewriting my original notes. Just copying the info from my "scribbly" notes and adding missing information, removing repetitive information, or clarifying things that may not have made sense from my first round of notes.

If I’m following along in my textbook, I write the page number of everything we cover. This makes it easier to read the text in the future because you've already connected it to something learned in class! Also, there are SO many times when a professor/teacher asks a question and the answer is literally written right there on the page. It's not a trick- go ahead and say the answer! Then write down the page numbers because if they bring it up in class, they'll probably bring it up on the exam!

Depending on the complexity of the material and how familiar I was with it to begin with it, I either write whole sentences (if it’s new and I’m still learning it), or just a few quick phrases or keywords (if I already know it and just need to remember to include it). In this example, purple and blue could really be consolidated into one color... but if there are a lot of different levels, it may be helpful to have more colors to differentiate the information! Add page numbers for quick referencing!

I draw or write down every example given by the professor or book because picturing it in a real-life situation is what helps me remember the content the most. I love examples because they bring the material to life and actually give it a purpose! Teachers are always adding real-life examples or stories to go along with their lectures! WRITE THOSE DOWN! They make the information so much easier to remember! And the crazier the story, the more likely you are to remember it on the test! yay!

If there is a new vocabulary word, I write that all the way to the left of the red line (in the margin) so that it stands out. I may even highlight that if it’s a super-important concept AND a new word. This means that the things to the left of the margin line are page numbers and vocabulary words, which makes it easy to find and reference both!

When I get to the bottom of the page, I just draw an arrow pointing to the right in the bottom right corner to show if there is writing on the back. Although, lately I have really been trying to condense my notes into one page instead of two.

If I do write on the back, at the top of the page, I write the topic name follow by con’t. 

Then I use the same formatting system on the back of the page (gotta save those trees!).

If I’m writing notes straight out of the assigned reading, I write them like this. And that’s pretty much all that I can think of to describe the way I format my notes. Please let me know if this sounds confusing or if I should clarify something! 

Do you have a special system for formatting your notes? How do you do it? Do you rewrite them afterwards or just format them the first time. 
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