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Taking QUALITY Physics/Maths notes in and out of class?

  1. May 24, 2013 #1
    Here are my problems I'm experiencing, I'm sure my note taking is very relative to the fact that I have to study 6-8 hours a day to keep up (Or more!)

    I was wondering if anybody has any tips to improve efficiency and effectiveness of my note taking so that I can spend less time trying to decipher my writing and more time learning.

    -My printing and writing are pretty horrible. My experience with writing poorly has made me not even be able to comprehend most of my notes because I'm juts trying to jot down and keep up as fast as I can.

    -I type very fast, an upwards of 120-150wpm, although I am kind of against the idea of writing computer notes because 1) It's much easier to pointlessly write down stuff and not actually internalize it, 2) I'm unfamiliar with how I'm going to type all my symbols and formulas and draw diagrams, 3) Can't really bust out my laptop everywhere cause it's a t400

    -My biggest issue is I go through about 1-1.5 240page Hilroy books a week. Not only does this cost a lot, but it reduces the quality and concentration of my notes and makes everything very unorganized. I only use these many pages because I draw diagrams, try to save space to avoid clutter and whatnot, although having 2.5 books filled for my physics class i started 2 weeks ago is not convenient at all (Not only lecture notes, but classical mechanics notes throughout all of first year that i'm taking myself)

    so yeah, I'm putting in the time but i am wondering if any of you guys have any tips for good and efficient note taking so i can cut down my 8 hours a day to either a fraction of that or transform my 8 hours a day into a much higher learning efficiency

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  3. May 25, 2013 #2


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    What I would try is to read your textbook or assigned readings in advance, and try to understand how things fit together before you go to class. When things come up in class you will immediately see where they fit and your notes will focus on the advanced points.

    Notes are notes, I don't think the actual taking of notes can be improved much.
  4. May 25, 2013 #3
    What I personally do is, during class and lecture, I take notes on flying sheets but focus very much on understanding what the professor is explaining rather than concentrating on the beauty of my scripting. In a 2-hrs class session, I usually end up with 20-25 absolutely repellent note pages.

    After that, back home, I RE-WRITE my notes, reading them calmly, redoing the theorem proofs on my own, into a notebook, and I mix that up with whatever I find interesting or relevant in my textbooks. I end up with a clean, crystal-clear notebook of my very own with everything explained, figures, diagrams. This method, since you're REWRITING your notes, makes the math even easier to remember.

    Good luck
  5. May 25, 2013 #4

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    Rewriting is a good idea:

    360 pages a week, for a class with 3 hours/week contact time, works out to 120 pages per hour - or one every 30 seconds. Talking non-stop, people can speak around 100 words per minute, so you are dedicating one page to every 50 words.

    This seems excessive. I would stop trying to write down everything and focus on things that are important, or that you didn't understand: trying to write absolutely everything is obviously not getting you where you need to be.
  6. May 25, 2013 #5
    I like the notes in the margin of the textbook method.
  7. May 25, 2013 #6
    I started rewriting my notes, first by hand to double-check any errors/make it neater, then in LaTeX so that I always have a copy backed up. In LaTeX, I added my own figures, graphs, and other important notes from other books.

    Looking back, that was REALLY time consuming, but they are beautifully written notes.
  8. May 26, 2013 #7
    In class, I would focus on the main ideas of the prof. If he says something very insightful, then write it down. Also for math / physics classes, I would definitely write down the examples.

    Back at home, once I study my notes + textbook and after doing some practice questions, I usually make summary notes of the chapters - usually 1 or 2 pages for each. These usually take a while to make since it takes me a while to know what the main information for the chapter is and how to summarize / condense it well... this may take a couple of hours. However, once exams rolls along and kids are cramming like crazy, I can just take a quick look at these summary notes and be reminded of all the things we have covered in the year.
  9. May 26, 2013 #8
    I personally try to write notes that condense the material in the chapter/lecture as much as possible. I think this forces me to decide what is important and how to express it as elegantly as possible.
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