Even in the era of information technology with the boom of office computing, manually writing down notes still proves its advantages over other digital methods of note-taking.
Manual notes help writers get a stronger impression of the material, which helps them remember the information longer. They also force the writer to be active in the process of receiving information, making sure they catch every detail so as to not be confused later on. Plus, pen and paper is more convenient to carry around than a laptop or other piece of hardware. Classic ink on paper is hard to beat!
However, with all the advantages that manually writing down notes has, not everyone knows how to apply manual notes most effectively.
There are a lot of note models out there to suit your style and needs. So much so, it can be hard to pick out which one is best. In this article, I provide an overview of the six best note-taking methods, how to apply them, and when. This guide will be useful to you whether you’re a college student looking to improve your study habits or someone in the workforce wanting to improve the way you take notes.
Let’s get started!
This type of notation is a traditional way of writing and is quite familiar to everyone. It’s great for those who like the simplicity and quickness in taking notes. For students, this way helps you keep up with professors during lectures and allows you to carefully focus on recording the information in the classroom.
One of the only downsides to this method is that when looking back to review, it can sometimes be difficult to understand how everything connects. In a lecture, the presenter is giving you information in a way that benefits understanding in the moment, rather than something to be read back later on, which causes your notes to become mixed and information to be spread around.
This issue can be easily solved by writing down the main ideas and remembering only the relevant information.
The outline method is simple to use when you want to avoid writing whole paragraphs. In the beginning, it can be difficult to find important ideas in books or lectures. This method can be used in combination with the Cornell method or structural analysis method (seen below).
Source: Chloe Burroughs
This style of writing is suitable for revision. In this method, you divide the paper into three parts: Cues, Notes, and Summary. In the Notes section, you can write arbitrarily, but most people choose to write all the ideas in a system. In the cues section, you write down the main points of the test or questions that may be included in the test. A Summary can be written after the class is over or during revision, abstracting the main idea of the whole lesson.
The Cornell method is a good way to note if you really take the time to review the notes. Since it summarizes the information, you don’t need to spend time writing notes again.
A minor downside to this method is that it can be very time-consuming for the note taker. While it does help in being detailed, it can easily overwhelm those who are pressed for time.
Before using this method, first consider if you will have enough time to write down all of the information. If not, you may need to use a faster form of notation, like ones we’ll get to below. If you do however have enough time to take extensive notes, then this is a great method to help you learn and remember the material.
The method of using a mind map is becoming more and more popular because it is being applied in many schools today. Knowledge-intensive subjects such as chemistry, history, philosophy, and abstract ideas are well suited to using the mind map method.
This method can be used when you need to review before an exam, or to give you another way of thinking about the material by gathering the main ideas and the sub-ideas when writing an essay or when reading books.
There is now a Simple Mind app for phones or laptops that lets you organize your notes, thoughts, or ideas in a simple-to-use interface. You can move branches and links easily, and choose images instead of drawing so you can save more time.
1. Select a central theme: Draw an illustration or keyword in the middle of the blank paper.
2. Branch for main ideas: Choose keywords for main ideas and draw them to the central topic with thick lines, or main roots.
3. Split branches for additional ideas: Select keywords or images and draw links to main points with thinner lines.
4. Check for gaps and links: See if you can draw extra ideas and information, and if ideas are connected, draw lines.
Flow-note (flow-based note-taking) is an “unstructured” notation method. Once you receive the information, you jot down its most important parts in ways that make the most sense to you. You can do this using keywords, phrases, or images and draw arrows that connect the ideas together. This way of taking notes can help you maximize class time and revise old lessons later at home.
The three main principles to follow are to simplify, visualize, and make connections.
If your notes are meant to help with analysis and not just remembering information, this method is very useful. With the structured analysis method, you can both take notes and analyze them at the same time, which helps you save time later.
A bullet journal is a very efficient way to record work and plans created by Ryder Carroll, a Brooklyn designer. This style of writing is becoming more and more popular with pages written in beautiful colors and delicately decorated. It’s suitable for those who absorb well through visuals with colorful images; visualizing knowledge will make the lesson more interesting and easier to learn.
A bullet journal has several specific sections: a table of contents where you list the number of pages for a specific topic, a future diary that keeps track of upcoming events or deadlines for the next six months, a monthly diary for events and deadlines over the next month, and a daily diary that tracks your to-do list, tasks, events, and notes for each day.
Each of these methods for taking notes has its own focus, and choosing the one best suitable for you depends on your own priorities and stage of your work. If you want to visualize the text in its entirety, the outlining method would suit well. On the other hand, when you take notes for revisions or review, the Cornell method or a mind map, respectively, might be better.
Flow notes are likely better suited for the early stages of your work, when you try to establish the most important parts of the information you receive. Conversely, when your focus has shifted onto analyzing the information, using the structured analysis method is worth considering.
Finally, a bullet journal is something you will find attractive if you are the kind of writer who likes to visualize knowledge and organizes ideas based on colors and decorative patterns.
In the end, we write to communicate our thoughts to others. Taking notes is an essential aspect of organizing these thoughts, so that they remain coherent and effective. Pick a method, start taking notes, and maximize your productivity and efficiency of your texts!
Mai Duy Linh is a mobile enthusiast and writer who is currently studying Business English and Business Administration at Foreign Trade University. He researches and writes custom contents. His articles focus on Content Strategy, Methods and Methodology, and Genres of professional writing. Learn more about how Linh’s articles could help your writing become professional by following him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram.