What's your note taking method in physics classes?

In summary: Many professors do not allow you to video record lectures, and there are quite a few that do not allow audio recording. Also, audio recording doesn’t sound like it’d be very useful for a math/physics class, because most of the information is on the board.
  • #1
astroman707
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Upon entering my first physics class, I've noticed that taking notes is radically different than in any other class. It seems that during lecture one has two options.
Option 1: Don't take very many notes at all, and instead focus on the lecture.
Option 2: Take good notes, and miss what the professor is trying to explain.
What is your preferred method of note taking in your physics classes?
 
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  • #2
I have always gone with option 1, it is what I learn the most from. This is generally going to be very person-dependent and what works for one person might not work for someone else.
 
  • #3
Orodruin said:
I have always gone with option 1, it is what I learn the most from. This is generally going to be very person-dependent and what works for one person might not work for someone else.

I agree with everything here.

As an example of someone who worked completely differently, I had a friend in university who made fairly complete notes, which he polished after the lectures.
 
  • #4
To the OP:

I have a question for you. Does the professor in the physics class provide slides on the material as PDF for Postscript in advance, either in advance or after the lecture? I've seen this done in many classes.

This would also affect whether to focus on options 1 or 2.
 
  • #5
In all my classes, the lecturer always provided good notes, so I never took any notes and just paid attention during the lecture.
 
  • #6
StatGuy2000 said:
To the OP:

I have a question for you. Does the professor in the physics class provide slides on the material as PDF for Postscript in advance, either in advance or after the lecture? I've seen this done in many classes.

This would also affect whether to focus on options 1 or 2.
Ahh, I wish. No, just pure chalkboard glory.
 
  • #7
Why would anyone "miss" something in a lecture these days?

You can set up a tablet to record and bookmark lectures. You can write your notes with a stylus as if you're writing on paper, use unlimited colours, an unlimited supply of virtual paper... When you're studying you can play back lectures to catch what you missed! What I wouldn't have given for today's technology when I was a student.

Am I missing something, or is this a case of the grass being greener because it's on the other side of the fence?
 
  • #8
Choppy said:
Why would anyone "miss" something in a lecture these days?

You can set up a tablet to record and bookmark lectures. You can write your notes with a stylus as if you're writing on paper, use unlimited colours, an unlimited supply of virtual paper... When you're studying you can play back lectures to catch what you missed! What I wouldn't have given for today's technology when I was a student.

Am I missing something, or is this a case of the grass being greener because it's on the other side of the fence?
Many professors do not allow you to video record lectures, and there are quite a few that do not allow audio recording. Also, audio recording doesn’t sound like it’d be very useful for a math/physics class, because most of the information is on the board. I would claim that a video with no sound is better than sound with no video.
With respect to the stylus and virtual paper, I having paper and a pen are not the issue when it comes to the concerns I out forward.
The concerns were:
Physics proffessors go through material very quickly, too quickly to jot down all of the notes & listen to him/her at the same time. Therefore, do you listen intently and forget about notes, or do you take notes and lose the explanations.
 
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  • #9
astroman707 said:
Many professors do not allow you to video record lectures, and there are quite a few that do not allow audio recording. Also, audio recording doesn’t sound like it’d be very useful for a math/physics class, because most of the information is on the board. I would claim that a video with no sound is better than sound with no video.
With respect to the stylus and virtual paper, I having paper and a pen are not the issue when it comes to the concerns I out forward.
The concerns were:
Physics proffessors go through material very quickly, too quickly to jot down all of the notes & listen to him/her at the same time. Therefore, do you listen intently and forget about notes, or do you take notes and lose the explanations.

I have a question for you. Have you approached the professor directly with your concerns about the speed with which he is presenting the material, and whether you can video record his lectures for learning purposes? I feel that if you can make your case that the video recordings will be strictly for your own educational purposes (and that you have no intention on posting the videos on YouTube or anywhere else on the Web), then I doubt your professor will object.

As for your question about whether to listen intently and forget about notes, or take notes and lose explanation -- this is a judgement call, because professors often write very important details on the board, but also explain key ideas while speaking, so I always aim to do both.

If the professor is going over the material too quickly, my suggestion would be to write the material as much as possible during your lecture (while intently listening to the professor), then go over and review your notes and re-write your notes (especially while reviewing the material in your text -- I've found this useful while the material is fresh in my mind), and meet with your professor at his/her office hours (or e-mail him/her or even drop by when he/she is in his/her office) to clarify anything that is not clear.
 
  • #10
Listen. Listen. Listen. The spoken word has more power than notes. I find when I'm too hyperfocused on the quality of the notes, I'm left with a pile of pretty but cryptic writing. It doens't help me understand.

Nowadays notes tend to get uploaded online anyways.
 
  • #11
astroman707 said:
Physics proffessors go through material very quickly, too quickly to jot down all of the notes & listen to him/her at the same time. Therefore, do you listen intently and forget about notes, or do you take notes and lose the explanations.

Aren't you creating a false dichotomy for yourself though? I mean, sure, you might be faced with this kind of decision in the moment. But if it's a recurring theme, perhaps look for ways of getting better at taking notes while listening to the lectures.

For what it's worth, I always had a hard time just sitting and listening. I need to take notes to stay engaged with the material. Otherwise, my mind wanders.
 
  • #12
This is very good but not perfect:
astroman707 said:
Many professors do not allow you to video record lectures, and there are quite a few that do not allow audio recording. Also, audio recording doesn’t sound like it’d be very useful for a math/physics class, because most of the information is on the board. I would claim that a video with no sound is better than sound with no video.
With respect to the stylus and virtual paper, I having paper and a pen are not the issue when it comes to the concerns I out forward.
The concerns were:
Physics proffessors go through material very quickly, too quickly to jot down all of the notes & listen to him/her at the same time. Therefore, do you listen intently and forget about notes, or do you take notes and lose the explanations.

A good student should read or study the expected lecture content BEFORE the lecture class meeting. Taking "notes" then becomes filling-in as the attempt to complete ones understanding. You will know what "notes" to take if you already tried to study the day's topic from your book. Then, you make your notes on paper and not worry about handling any pieces of technology just for note-taking.
 
  • #13
astroman707 said:
my first physics class,
Assuming you're in the US, and this is a first-year intro physics class, you almost certainly have an assigned textbook.
symbolipoint said:
A good student should read or study the expected lecture content BEFORE the lecture class meeting.
At this point it's probably not necessary to understand everything, but you should at least be aware of what the book says about those topics.
Taking "notes" then becomes filling-in as the attempt to complete ones understanding. You will know what "notes" to take if you already tried to study the day's topic from your book.
Maybe some phrases to indicate which sections of the book the professor covered that day, plus more details about anything "extra" that he/she did. Did he/she do derivations or examples that are not in the book, or explain examples from the book in more detail than the book does, or make illuminating comments that expand on the book's explanations?
 

Related to What's your note taking method in physics classes?

What is the best way to take notes in a physics class?

The best way to take notes in a physics class is to actively listen to the lecture and write down key points, equations, and examples that the professor emphasizes. It is also helpful to use diagrams and visual aids to better understand the concepts.

Should I handwrite or type my notes in a physics class?

This ultimately depends on personal preference. Some people may find it easier to handwrite their notes as it allows for more flexibility and creativity. However, typing notes may be more efficient and organized for others. Experiment with both methods to see which works best for you.

How can I keep my notes organized and easy to study from?

One way to keep your notes organized is to use headings, bullet points, and color-coding to distinguish different topics and subtopics. It is also helpful to review and summarize your notes after each class and create study guides for exams.

What should I do if I miss important information while taking notes?

If you miss important information while taking notes, try to catch up by asking a classmate or the professor for clarification. You can also review the lecture slides or recording if available. It is important to fill in any missing information as soon as possible to ensure a complete understanding of the material.

How can I improve my note-taking skills in a physics class?

To improve your note-taking skills in a physics class, try to actively participate in class discussions and ask questions. This will help you stay engaged and focused on the material. Additionally, practice summarizing and condensing information as you write your notes to ensure you are capturing the most important points.

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