Note-taking in undergrad degrees

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  • #1
Sojourner01
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To what level do most of you rely on your own handwritten class notes after the fact? I ask because I produce reams of paperwork, but can't imagine any of it ever being useful and am highly tempted to consign most of it to the bin. I would always go to a book on the subject before my notes if I wanted to recall something. I use note-taking purely as a means of committing information to memory - they're a mechanism. Once written they are of no use to me beyond occasionally retracing my thoughts for completing assignments. So, do any of you find your old university notes useful maybe years after making them?
 

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  • #2
octol
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I never ever use my notes either. I take notes mainly to stay away (and alert) during classes. And besides, why look up stuff in your notes when the lecturer usually follows a book anyway (hence you can find more detailed info in the book). This of course only applies to undergrad courses (for me)
 
  • #3
americanforest
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I didn't pay $400 for books so I could study from my notes :rolleyes:
 
  • #4
mr_coffee
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$400 is a good semester!

When I took physics I used the notes I took in that class because the professor was good at lecturing. In calc 3 I take notes that I read and hm...I do read my notes a lot now that I think about it.

But I guess it all depends on the professor.
 
  • #5
gravenewworld
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Interesting. I never ever used my textbooks. They were a huge waste of money. I only used them when I did homework problems. I think almost 20% of my textbooks are still in their plastic wrapping.
 
  • #6
CPL.Luke
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I never use or take notes, and in some of my classes the professor will go as far as to say not to tae them as he provides a set of lecture notes, or a textbook which will contain far more information than you could ever take down in your notes.

lectures are for absorbing what the lecturer is saying and for getting some additional explanations on certain aspects of the theory.
 
  • #7
quasar987
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I have the same attitude towards lectures as CPL.Luke. Therefor, I will not write the lenghty derivations, which are in the books anyway, but only the insightful comments (verbal or written) of the lecturer. And if he doesn't share his insights I won't go to class. But I wouldn't recommend you trying this at home.
 
  • #8
UCFEng06
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I have to agree that I rarely use my notes after the lecture ends. They are beneficial though because as I write things down I remember them better, even without looking back on them later. In fact, I've tried to look over my notes at the end of the day to recap the lecture and I find it boring because I remember it all. I suppose it depends on your learning style.
 
  • #9
DeadWolfe
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I haven't taken notes in any class since grade 10.
 
  • #10
phusicist
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I write notes prolifically for some some subjects, not math or philosophy though. Putting your thoughts down sentence by sentence, in a logical manner, is a great way for clarifying and organizing any half-remembered, half-understood ones. I also make a comprehensive one-page outline for the entire semester, which I update (Hence update my understanding) after every assignement, by asking questions and organizing and reorganizing. I can have 80 pages of notes a term, but always a one page framework that gives me a global understanding and an outline to reconstruct the details from. So I learn 80% from notes, 20% by other means with these types of subjects.

I do the same thing for Math and Philosophy but to a far lesser extent, only have something like 10-20 notes in total per term. To understand these subjects, philosophy and math, you need to DO them. Solving problems, proving things in math and writing analytic essays, evaluating arguments, in philosophy. Learning 20% from notes, 80% by DOING them.
 
  • #11
Sojourner01
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I find it perplexing that many students seem to spend vast sums on books when they're available from the library. In our case we have a departmental library with a fair-sized collection of undergraduate books and journals - so if they're not in the university library they're very likely to be in there.
 
  • #12
3trQN
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I used to take notes to remain alert, come exam time, compress the info by going over them 1 or 2 times. Then revise using the compressed form and the text. After that, id usually discard uncompressed notes.
 
  • #13
J77
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I used to take notes to remain alert, come exam time, compress the info by going over them 1 or 2 times. Then revise using the compressed form and the text. After that, id usually discard uncompressed notes.
Same as.

Plus, for me, I wrote down everything in my maths degree - mainly because I couldn't imagine sitting through a complex analysis lecture without doing so and being able to stay awake!
 
  • #14
complexPHILOSOPHY
365
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I fall asleep and become disconnected when I take notes in class, so instead, I engage the lecturer with questions and try to organize information in my head while I listen, (I mostly just listen). I have a really strong memory when I am dynamically involved in structuring it, which I can't do taking notes.

I do, however, make chapter and section outlines for mathematics and physics only (the other classes are a joke) on my computer which I print out and keep in binders. I have a binder for each textbook and in each binder are my chapter outlines.

I have a Calculus binder, separated into textbooks (I like to use a few different ones) and then separated into chapters. I have one for Algebraic and Geomtric Arithmetic, Trigonometry, Abstract Algebra and Calculus.

I started learning Algebra and Geometry a couple of months ago for basically the first time (I didn't know what imaginary or complex numbers were before this) and since then, I have just maintained that same mentality of making binders for my text-book. It doesn't take me very long because I am a word processor at a law firm, so I am used to typing on a computer all day.

I use this quite often to refer to formulas, theorems, proofs, concepts, definitions, axioms, postulates etc. that I don't need the textbook for. I like to keep my own comments in my outlines so that when I go back later, I can retreive the thought-process that I left off with.

My memory is triggered by cues, so if I leave cues for myself I can trigger my retarded memory. These binders definitely help me remember things because I can refer to the pictures of my notes in my head and it helps trigger information.

I wish I had the talents that some of the PFers on here have. It seems a lot of people here can read the book without ever really putting in much effort and extrapolate many levels of information.

Dammn you geniuses!
 
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  • #15
JasonRox
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I never use my notes either. The notes I get in class are terrible anyways. They always work through the same problems as in the textbook. For crying out loud, I can walk myself through those examples.

Seriously, writing notes is a waste of time literally.
 
  • #16
turbo
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I generally made a habit of writing the notes in the margins of my textbooks so the materials would stay together. If the lecturer emphasized some concept, likely, there would be a relevant question or two at exam-time, and I didn't have to waste time thumbing through the text looking for relevant passages when reviewing my notes. I never had any problem selling my texts afterward, unless the profs changed to a different text for the next semester.
 
  • #17
samh
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I like to take notes because I like looking back on them to reminisce about all I've been through. I still have my notes from so long ago when I first got to college, when I took my first calculus course, when I took my first philosophy course, etc. It's a lot of fun looking through them and it brings back a lot of memories. I find fun little notes I wrote in the margins too like, "what the hell is he talking about" or "I'm lost...this is stupid," heheh.

If the lectures are based on the book then I'll sometimes skip writing notes. But if they have information not in the book then I'll write down EVERYTHING the professor says/writes. This is very necessary as I have a horrible learning disability and can't really learn anything in class, so I have to write things down and work through the notes slowly on my own time.
 
  • #18
mr_coffee
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Writing the notes for me helps visually because on exams or quizzes I can sometimes recognize a problem and rewrite it word for word and just change a few parameters. I know its not about memorizing but its helped me a ton to get grades.

I'm also a slow learner so rewriting things over and over is how I get it done. If i just read chapters from the book nothing is absorbed until I write it down which is very time consuming.
 
  • #19
tim_lou
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notebook = scratch paper in my math + physics class.
 
  • #20
leon1127
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I shall only talk about my note-taking in maths class since this is a maths forum.

Clearly, I want to learn and maintain good mark simultaneously. Therefore, I take note when notes are needed for the exams. However, I don't take note mindlessly. I always "master" the material before it is discussed in class. Therefore if no material is introduced in class, no note will be taken. That doesn't imply I don't study. In fact, I read text every night and thing about the material constantly. This helps me to earn a lot of trust from my professor.
 
  • #21
mattmns
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Depends, usually I take some notes though. For example, when I took complex variables, we had a fantastic professor that did not go straight from the book, and so in his class I frequently used the notes, and rarely opened the text.
 
  • #22
mathwonk
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when i was at harvard the lectures were always of much higher quality than what was in books. it puzzles me now when my students do not expect my notes are going to exceed what is in their textbooks. if i had nothing to offer superior to what is in most books i would be embarrassed to lecture.

how odd, or even arrogant and foolish, it seems to assume your books are the equal of your lecturers notes, or perhaps you have really poor teachers??

of course when i am allowed to pick my own books i try to pick books by real masters, hence better than myself, but even then i issue notes which fill gaps in those treatises, or add something.

i will suggest, if your lecturer does not give you more than is in your book, you should consider that possibly you are in a lousy school.

today for example, i showed my class how to derive the applications at the end of our15 week course, in only the third week. my problem is they seem not to appreciate how much i am giving them, beyond what the book offers. my classes complain because i give them too much.

i get class evaluations asking me to stick to the book, and not go beyond. i would feel i was cheating them if i did that. i am getting paid to share what i have to offer, not just read the book to them. they can get that much without me. why pay tuition to read a book?
 
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  • #23
quasar987
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i will suggest, if your lecturer does not give you more than is in your book, you should consider that possibly you are in a lousy school.

I thought schools hired professors based on their research ability and regardless of their "teaching abilities" (since those can hardly be quantified anyway). So on the average, every school will have good and bad profs; the so called good schools being those where the talented researchers are at.

i get class evaluations asking me to stick to the book, and not go beyond. i would feel i was cheating them if i did that. i am getting paid to share what i have to offer, not just read the book to them. they can get that much without me. why pay tuition to read a book?

Between reading the book to them and flooding them with extra material, there is a grey zone. A golden zone I should say!. It is that you talk informally about the subject [like you often do here on PF!]. You have experience; you have opinions about what's important (and why) and what's less important; you have see analogies or have subtle links or in your head between the elements of the subject or even perhaps mapping to other areas of mathematics; you have a global view about the subject and about the role that every theorem plays in the grand scheme. You have anecdotes and historical knowledge about the subject. Let that wisdom get passed on to them.
 
  • #24
cepheid
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I find it perplexing that many students seem to spend vast sums on books when they're available from the library. In our case we have a departmental library with a fair-sized collection of undergraduate books and journals - so if they're not in the university library they're very likely to be in there.

Are you serious? Students aren't stupid. But...

1. Most lecturers specify that a given textbook is the "required" textbook for the course. That means it's not enough to go and get a book on quantum mechanics. It has to be the book specified.

2. This notion of a "required" textbook is reinforced by the fact that homework problems are often assigned from the textbook, making it necessary as more than just a reference.

3. The necessity of buying the newest edition of the book is usually guaranteed by the fact that the one thing the author definitely changes from edition to edition is the numbering of the problems (ostensibly because more have been added), so that anyone without the latest edition can't be sure which problems have been assigned in class.

4. Most designated course textbooks are not available for loan in the university library. Instead, they are "on reserve", meaning you can take them out for a maximum of two hours before having to return them.

5. Granted, #4 doesn't apply to older editions of the textbook, if they exist, but do you really think that the library would have enough copies of the textbook for, say, 100 students taking that course?

I think that 1-3 don't apply as much to students in 3rd/4th year, and a lot of lecturers like making up their own problem sets. But the point is that, even if 1-5 aren't true at your university, it seems a bit ludicrous to be "perplexed" as to why students, in general, have no choice but to buy most of their textbooks.
 
  • #25
desA
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I find that taking notes in class helps to initially position my thoughts on the subject. I then work up my own set of notes drawing notes, text-book & other literature into a full set of notes. Sometimes I can end up with 2 lever-arch files of notes per course.

Before exams, I re-work the notes into a set of summary notes & then take mental images of each page.

This procedure sets the concepts firmly into my head & understanding. This method allowed me to carry information in my head for some 15 years after initial graduation. I then constantly reinforce, or modify this knowledge each year by reading additional books.

It becomes a life of learning, rather than merely swotting to pass a subject.

desA
 
  • #26
eichfeld
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I guess it depends how good are you at multitasking and how fast you take notes. I personally am not fast enough even for just taking the notes, forget about thinking with the class and understanding in depth what is being talked about. So I just listen and think in the lecture.

A few weeks ago, before her exam in physics, a girl came to ask help from me. She showed me her notebook, which had the best lecture notes you could ever imagine. But she had always been so busy with taking notes, that she did not understand anything of what she was writing! So much of notes.
 
  • #27
mathwonk
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it sounds a bit like the conundrum posed by whether to videotape my son playing ball, or watch him play.
 
  • #28
PhilosophyofPhysics
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I take notes all the time. It just seems like my professors skip a lot less steps than with some derivations in the book and sometimes they might be explaining some mathematics that I don't know. It is so annoying not knowing the math beforehand. I also find the problems we do in class useful.
 
  • #29
Sojourner01
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Students aren't stupid.

Ha, really? But I digress...

a lot of lecturers like making up their own problem sets. But the point is that, even if 1-5 aren't true at your university[...]

It isn't, hence the confusion. I would have thought lecturers in general would have made some effort not to screw over their students financially. I know that here, setting a 'required' text just wouldn't happen. Nobody would buy it because they cannot. afford. it. No question about it.
 
  • #30
CPL.Luke
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hmm sojourner where do you live?
 
  • #31
Sojourner01
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Reading, UK. I think it's a difference in cultures - british students refuse to pay a massive amount of money they don't have for books; whatever they're told. Provided it's a decision en masse, the faculty has to yield.
 
  • #32
Azael
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If the notes are useless it usualy means the lecturer is useless.

If the lecturer is good the notes are more valuable than the textbook. Atleast to me. I always learn the best when the lecturer and the lecture notes are so good that I never have to open the textbook.
 
  • #33
verty
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Not opening the textbook is dangerous.
 
  • #34
Azael
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Not opening the textbook is dangerous.

Well I didnt mean it quite literaly. But in many classes I have taken the lecturer was so good that I could have performed very well on the exam without ever needing the textbook. I usualy skim through the textbook for fun either way.

But the worst thing imo is a lecturer that just recite the textbook on the lectures. Thats just useless, I can rather spend those hours reading myself.
I go to leactures to get a different view from the textbook.

Fortunaly that worst case scenarion has only happened during one or two classes so far.
 
  • #35
gravenewworld
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hmm maybe that was why i studied so much less than my friends and still got decent grades. I never read textbooks, I only used my notes to study for exams. if you have decent notes, you don't need to read your textbook. most professors like to design their exams around what they teach in class not what is in a book. i remember never reading any of my economics books or pretty much none of my chemistry or physics books.
 

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