Excellent notes don’t have to be neat, follow a bullet point system, or be categorized alphabetically, but they DO need to be done in a way that allows you to chronicle and arrange content in some sort of a system that makes sense to you. Thus enabling you to record the information and later find it quickly.
So then let’s analyze a way that is already in place online, and let’s model it so that we could make our notes just as efficient.
For example, a typical web page that was bookmarked on a social media bookmarking site will show the browser/visitor certain components. Typically there is a date associated with the submission. There is a title of the submission, a quick summary/description of what the site is all about, a few tags/keywords and often a rating.
Can you begin to see how beneficial this system could be if it was easy to implement with your notes?
Well, guess what. It is! You don’t even need a fancy computer program to take great notes. All you need is to maximize on the layout of the page you take your notes on. Personally I found that blank pages work great, but by all means use the pages you prefer to make your notes. If you’re really lazy, you might want to grab a fake doctor’s note.
“So how do I split up my page?” you ask. Simple.
At the top of the page keep sorting information; like the date of lecture somewhere in the corners, the course codeor course name, and the title of the lecture whenever it’s provided. If it’s not, make one up, be creative. Also, at the end of the lecture place some sort of a subjective rating based out of 5 or 10 of how useful this particular note will be the upcoming assignment or exam. This will give you a very efficient way to organize your exam review material at the end of the semester.
The body of the page I recommend you divide it into three column; with the middle column taking up about 80% of the page. This is where your notes go. Whatever you used to write on the entire page, now you will write only here. This way you may need a page or two extra for the entire lecture, but that’s a small price to pay for the efficiency of your notes. Remember to use good titles and diagrams here. A picture is worth a thousand words; so whenever possible draw little diagrams for yourself.
The column on the left can be about 15% of the page and should be filled with keywords (all you web-crawlers can read “tags”) summarizing the accompanying ideas and paragraphs in the middle paragraph. Thus you’ll know what the note is all about at a quick glance.
The right column is a lot smaller; the remaining 5% that we allocated to it, you can fill with your own symbols. Stars, exclamation marks, question marks, and whatever else you want to use to denote for example; that a topic is going to be covered on the exam; or that you need to revise a concept because there are shortfalls in your understanding.
Further you can at the end of each note go back and add a few more keywords, on the left side and a brief summary at the end of each note. Doing that after each note helps you remember the content better, and during the review reminds you of the topics that you need to know.
Note: A luxury you have when writing letters free-hand, rather than on the computer is the use of prominent symbols on the right side of the page and in the middle paragraph. Remember to underline, use creative fonts and bubbles, place boxes around and a ton of arrows to draw attention to relevant topics and illustrate inter-connectivity of topics.