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Taking notes from a textbook

  1. Oct 17, 2006 #1
    Sometimes I feel like my notetaking ability is completely lacking. I just don't have enough experience to do it properly. I have only really been taking notes from textbooks for a year or so (Since before that everything was off of the teacher's overhead projector or blackboard etc, for the most part)..

    What I find is that I end up copying like 35% of the textbook into my notes, and I am starting to realize that this is a huge waste of time... I mean, it helps me understand stuff at the time, but right now I have like 3 pages on how to find limits of eaaaaasy functions, which I will never forget how to do..

    I need to strike a balance between ensuring that I understand the material, and making sure that the notes I take will be useful 8 months down the road.

    I wanted to ask how you take notes. Preferably I'd like to hear from people with a few years of university behind them since they are presumably the best note takers in the world :P.

    Do you copy down examples? Do you make use of the margins? If you cover 10 pages in a math text, approximately how many pages of notes would you normally write down? Any other note taking tips are welcomed and appreciated.

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2006 #2
    When I read a book, I try to find interrelation with other notions. This helps me to understand more from the book. If I have found some insteresting result. Then I will write it down. Remember you can always look up a book when you dont remember something. I believe a book is a better organised reference than you handwritten note.
  4. Oct 17, 2006 #3


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    Many textbooks have generous margins and you may have some blank space at the beginning and/or the end of the book. I made it a habit to notate my texts, underlining key concepts, and writing something illuminating in the margins. If I needed more room than the margins could accomodate, I would try to make a reference on the relevant page pointing to the blank pages in the front or the back of the book, and then jot down the page number and the example/explanation in that space. As long as the instructors didn't change textbooks, I was usually able to sell mine to another student at a premium because of the notes. The head of the anthropology department always told a joke before each lecture of Anthro 101, and I used to jot them down. The kid I sold my book to caught up with me on campus after the next semester had begun and told me that the prof was using the very same jokes. He also found that he didn't have to take many notes because he generally agreed with what I had found to be the key concepts in every chapter. Copying lots and lots of stuff out of a textbook into a notebook is wasteful of your time - keep your notes in the text if you can and they will be better-organized and they will be located with relevant material. Another thing you can do is use a digital voice recorder to record the lectures. That way, if the lecturer went a little fast for your transcription skills, you can replay some or all of the lecture that evening and "touch up" your notes.
  5. Oct 17, 2006 #4
    Thanks alot guys. I think I have been writing down way too much and your posts have given me an idea of how much to write down.
  6. Oct 19, 2006 #5
    My trick to reading text books is that I have a highlighting. I have a coloring system system.
  7. Oct 19, 2006 #6
    High Lighting Is A Good Method As Said Above By --nothing000--
    Also Mindmapping
    And Just Reading Books And Underlying
    I Dont Think You Have To Write Things Down , Well Not Everything , Only The Important Points ...learn To Summerize.
    Maybe The First Time U Read Through U Shouldnt Take Notes ,just Make Sure U Understand Wat Ur Reading , I Mean Sketching Writing Words (not Note Taking) And Throwing That Piece Of Paper In The Bin Afterwards.
    Since U Do Too Much Not Taking ,,,try Doing None To See Wat Its Like ...( Just Twice Maybe).
  8. Oct 19, 2006 #7
    I don't usually take notes....I just annotate my textbook if I feel there is anything important to add.
  9. Oct 19, 2006 #8
    I am finding that working many problems is much more effective than studdying notes.
  10. Oct 19, 2006 #9
    One needs to learn the theory behind the phenomena before being able to to problems.

    I use multiple kinds of note taking depending on what type of area it is and how much information I need to learn.

    For me, it is not just about reading a text, taking some short notes and then you are done. It is a much more complex issue that at first sight. Note taking is just one small area of the study habits and shouldn't be used on its own. Below is how I go about learning a text generally speaking.

    1. Skim reading - What exactly is the subject about?
    2. (What) did I know about it before?
    3. Reading the text carefully, studying examples to get a great understanding of it (ie. not being able to recite it, but not hitting any bumps in the road when reading).
    4. Writing about the text, often copying entire sentences. This is the ultimate way to go deep in the text.
    5. Coordinating my notes from 4. and the notes from the lessons and discussions to make a clear text about the area.
    6. Doing excersises.
    7. Making the final short-hand notes (still in somewhat readable format).

    There is nothing that is forcing you to skip 1-6 and just do number 7. I usually vary the size of the individual points depending on how much I knew before, how complex the area is etc.

    In the end, it bottles down to what kind of person you are I guess.
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