1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is note taking important?

  1. Oct 10, 2014 #1
    I have never took notes in my life.I just listen to the lecture and read the material from the book but I have never jotted down anything during the lecture.Considering that I recently started university, is note taking really important or can I just study without it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    This is completely dependent on your own learning style. I was exactly like you when I started university and tried taking notes, but it just distracted me and I always found solving problems more effective than going back to look at notes.

    Other people will absolutely need to take notes for things to stick. Of course, you could also try some middle ground and writing notes can be done with varying amount of detail.

    It may also depend on the subject.

    If your current approach to learning works for you then stick to it. If you have problems, consider learning a bit about different study techniques and apply what you feel will be good for you.
  4. Oct 10, 2014 #3
    There may be times when you are forced to take notes because the textbook is not followed closely or is of low quality. This happens more with higher level classes.
  5. Oct 10, 2014 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    At my school, I took a couple of courses where the instructor lectured from a set of notes which he kept in a loose-leaf binder. No copies of these notes were distributed to the students, and we could see the paper was yellow with age when the notebook was open on his desk during class. If you didn't take notes during the lectures, you had nothing to study for the exams, as the lecture material was not covered in any textbook.

    So, unless you have a photographic memory or a means to record an entire lecture, you need to learn how to keep notes.
  6. Oct 10, 2014 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I agree that a lot can depend on your own personal learning style. If something is working for you, then it's fine to keep going with it.

    That said, good note-taking is a skill that's worth developing. In high school, you can often do well by simply learning the core concepts that are covered, working your way through the homework problems, and then rely on external resources to answer any questions because most of a common high school curriculum is available online in one form or another. The same thing can be true for most intorductory university courses.

    But once you get to the more advanced courses in university you can face a number of challeges. This can include:
    - a higher volume of material covered in less time
    - fewer external resources
    - instructor-specific details that can influence your grade
    - lectures that you just don't understand the first time around

    When facing these kinds of challenges, habits like avoiding note-taking can impact your performance in the course as well has how much use you get out of each of them.
  7. Oct 10, 2014 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I don't take notes for calc, chem, or physics classes. I will work through any examples or derivations that the professor works though. If you are taking something like psychology or history, you better be taking them then. In my experience the books are useless in these classes. The professors I've had for gen eds tend to like essay questions, and they're straight from the notes, not the book. This will vary from class to class though, just my experience.
  8. Oct 10, 2014 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I agree with other posters:
    1) it depends on your learning style. For me it helped only if i was following what the professor did - I was a pretty serious student so usually kept up with reading so had an idea. Also, I usually remember better if I write it down.
    2) it depends if the class follows a good textbook or not. For example, the entire sophomore math sequence for Engineers when I was in school was from published notes that the Math dept. "sold" for $5 a semester. In that case I took notes on interesting/insightful additions from the prof, but otherwise sat with the notes and followed along during lecture. Starting my Junior year I took classes for which no textbook existed that covered the material in the right way. In that case notes were crucial.

    Play it by ear. Also, practice is the only way to get good at taking notes.

  9. Oct 10, 2014 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I don't usually take notes unless it isn't present in the textbook. I read the relevant chapter before class and then add all the extra material that the professor covers to my notes.
  10. Oct 13, 2014 #9
    It is probably a good idea to take notes. Reviewing your notes of the class may give you an idea of the topics your professor thinks are especially important. These topics are most likely to appear on your tests. You may find it impossible to learn everything you are responsible for on exams so if you need to limit yourself, I would review the topics your instructor finds important enough to teach. My own point of view was he is not writing on the blackboard (in those days) to give his hands something to do.
  11. Oct 13, 2014 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You do need to take notes....however, some people have terrible handwriting and taking notes is a challenge.

    For example my handwriting is horrible, so me taking notes can be pointless. However, I was good at taking the professors on and making them explain things until we could all understand. Now my buddy in class was shy and could not take on the professor. So, instead he took impecable notes while not really paying attention, while I was doing all the asking and understanding during class with no note taking.. Then later after class I would photo copy his notes and I would then teach him what was going on in tandem with his impecable notes.

    Team work. It does work.
  12. Oct 15, 2014 #11
    My physics professor is the author of the textbook recommended for the class, and he told us that notes are more valuable than reading directly from the textbook for two reasons:
    First, sometimes you may feel you follow the class without taking notes, but when you are forced to take notes, a lot of questions emerged as you write things down.
    Second, your handwritting actually can make focus on your bigger problems when you where trying to follow the lecture, it is faster and more profitable to study from your notes, with the textbook open next to you.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook