New Student Tip #10: The How of Note-Taking

In the previous tip I I tried to persuade you as to Why you should take lecture notes.

“OK, but How?”

Glad you asked. Here are ten tips to help you get those fingers smoking.

1. Name and organize your files and folders

There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t find them weeks or months later just before exam time. So have a separate folder for each subject, and maybe a separate folder for each module within that subject folder.

I name my files like this: Date-Title-Initials. So for example, I’d name the file containing this tip: 140901-HowNoteTaking-DPM. That helps me keep my notes in chronological order, but the summary title also helps me to see what’s in the file without having to open it. I like to put my initials on files so that if I’m working on a shared project I can distinguish my files from others.

2. Date and title the lecture at the top of the page.

This is helpful for when you print out your notes. If your Word processing software will let you include the file name and date in the header or footer, then this too will help you keep track of printed lectures.

3. Number the pages

If you ever print off your notes, your binder fails, and your papers start billowing all over campus, you’ll wish you had done this.

4. Set your Word processor to auto-save

We’ve all done it – once. We’ve been working on a document for over an hour when Word freezes, or we forget to save, or our thumb hits delete. Noooooooooooo! So set your word-processing software  to save every 3-5 minutes to make sure that the most you can lose is a few minutes work.

5. Summarize as you go

I know yesterday I encouraged you to take extensive notes, but that doesn’t mean you need to write out every word. That’s impossible. Err on the side of too much initially, but try to develop the ability of summarizing the lesson as you go. That’s actually a much better way to start learning the material than to try and type out everything word for word.

6. Outline the lecture

Most teachers today realize the importance of structure and will either be following one on Powerpoint or via a handout. If not, you need to work hard at making your own outline of the lecture. Again many Word processors like Word will let you take notes in Outline format and some options like Workflowy are specialized tools for outlining. Most outlines go like this:

I. MAIN POINT

A. Sub point

1. Sub-sub-point

2. Sub-sub point

B. Sub point

II. MAIN POINT

You can see that it’s not just different numbers but different indents and emphasis that are used as well (I also use a consistent color highlighting scheme for each level of indent). Leave a space between lines to make reading easier on your eyes.

Develop your own preferences but whatever you decide, keep that uniform for all lectures and you’ll train your brain to think like this and develop strong pegs to hang all the information on in small, accessible, and memorable packets. Far better than a big glob of undifferentiated information that your hands cannot get round or hold.

7. Note quotation sources and further reading

Sometimes teachers will quote someone else at length. Instead of trying to write down the whole quote and burn your fingers in the process, take a note of the book, author, and page number for future reference. If you can summarize the quote, all the better. Also note any direction for further reading. Perhaps you could ask the teacher to provide the quotes in a Word document for you to paste into your notes.

8. Highlight any gaps or confusion

Sometimes you will not be able to keep up with a teacher or you will not understand something she said. Take down what you can and put a note in the margin either to follow up with the teacher afterwards or compare notes with a fellow-student.

9. Review the lecture

I’m going to talk about study techniques in a later tip, but suffice to say that at the earliest opportunity after the lecture, while it’s still fresh in your mind, you should read through your notes to fill in anything you didn’t get down in class. If there are parts of the lecture without any outline or structure, work hard to outline it as much as you can. That’s going to be invaluable at exam time.

10. File the lecture

As I explained before, Dropbox ensures you won’t lose all your data if your computer crashes. But I also like to print out the lecture as well and put it in a ring-binder. That’s probably the oldie in me, but I do like to see some physical visible results for my labors!

Here’s an article on the Best Apps for Note-taking.

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

New Student Tip #6: Calendar

New Student Tip #7: Feedly

New Student Tip #8: Covenant Eyes

New Student Tip #9: The Why of Note-taking

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students


New Student Tip #9: The Why of Note-Taking

Note-taking begins with a big question: ”Why?”

Why take notes in lectures?

It may seem an easy question with an obvious answer but once you ask it, you’ll realize that there are a few possible answers and that your answer will determine how you take notes. Lets ask three students why they take notes:

Student 1: Because the teacher is teaching it.

Some vainly try to write down everything a teacher says. While erring on writing too much is better than writing too little, try to acquire the valuable skill of knowing what to write down and what to simply listen to. That will give you time to think about what’s being taught rather than just being a typist. It will also save you from RSI.

Student 2: To pass an exam

If exam success is why you are taking notes, then you’ll only want to take notes on lectures and parts of lectures that are examinable. You will try to find out from the syllabus or the teacher what will be in the exam and then take notes only when exam content is being taught. At other times you will probably switch off.

Student 3: To expand my knowledge

If this is your motive then you will take far more notes than student #2 but less than student #1. You realize that you are paying for an education, not just exam results, and therefore you will gather as much valuable information as you can in as efficient a way as possible. This student also recognizes that taking notes rather than just reading handouts and course books is one of the best ways to cement knowledge in the memory.

Obviously I hope you will be student #3, but let me add a few more motives to make this choice than just getting value for money or preparing for your career.

Motive 1: Respect for the teacher

It is unquestionably one of the most demoralizing aspects of teaching for a lecturer to pour 10-20 hours into preparing a lecture only to see a couple of students writing or typing while the rest either slouch in their chairs or text and chat online. He or she may not be the best teacher in the world but they are usually trying their very best and it’s basic human decency to show you value them and their work by actually typing at least some of what they say.

Motive 2: Acknowledge your inexperience 

Most teachers don’t teach just to bore you or to occupy their time. They actually believe what they are teaching is important and useful, even vital. It may not seem relevant or helpful to you, but then teachers have been around quite a bit longer than most students and have learned through experience what’s going to help you down the road. I’ve lost count of the number of tiimes I’ve been emailed by students a few years later to ask for help with something that they did not pay attention to when in class.

Motive 3: Learn how to teach

So, the content is not exactly scintillating, but what about the teacher’s teaching style? Is it something you can learn from – to copy or avoid? No matter what career we choose, we will all eventually teach someone something; most likely in a group setting too. Learn from the teacher’s good example and also his or her mistakes.

Motive 4: Strengthen self-discipline

Although teachers are increasingly banning laptops or wireless internet service from their classes, the temptation to check the Internet is still there for most students, even if only on their cell phones. But this is where good and bad habits are learned. If you get into the bad habit of continually checking social media or doing email when someone else is talking, you’ll carry that into other relationships too, and into your later career, which will damage your relationships and eventually your career prospects. Lectures, especially boring ones, are good training grounds for developing valuable listening skills especially for the innumerable boring meetings you’ll have to attend throughout your life.

That’s the Why? Next the How?

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

New Student Tip #6: Calendar

New Student Tip #7: Feedly

New Student Tip #8: Covenant Eyes

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students).

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students


New Student Tip #8: Covenant Eyes

Seven tips and you haven’t had to pay a cent yet!

Sorry to spoil your student paradise, but you’ll have to pay for this one. However, it’s a small price to pay considering the potential cost if you don’t.

The greatest danger for most students today is the Internet. Yes, it’s brought a lot of benefits and pluses into our lives as we’ve seen in the previous seven tips. But there are also downsides, and one of them is Internet pornography.

Of course pornography has always been a temptation, but what’s changed with the Internet is:

  • It’s so much easier to access, just a click of a finger.
  • It’s so much easier to view in total privacy without anyone finding out.
  • It’s so much cheaper, with so much available for “free.”
  • It’s so much worse, with the most vile forms of porn side-by-side with “entry-level” porn.
  • It’s looking for you, with many ways to trick you into seeing it.

Because of the above, many more people have accessed porn through curiosity, by accident, or by being targeted with it, resulting in many more people and a much wider range of people becoming addicted.

“But what’s the big deal?” many ask. “Where’s the harm in a little bit of porn?” Here’s the big deal; here’s the harm.

1. It’s a sin. According to Jesus, it is breaking the seventh commandment (Matt. 5:27-30).

2. It could send you to hell. See Jesus again (Matt. 5:27-30).

3. It’s hating your neighbor. If people didn’t watch it, people wouldn’t make it. If you view it, you are helping to create it. You are creating temptation danger for others, but also destroying the lives of those involved in making it, often against their wills.

4. It weakens the will: If you succumb to this, you will succumb to other sins too.

5. It weakens spirituality: Due to guilt, porn users cannot expect communion with God, delight in prayer, enjoyment in the Word, or spiritual growth.

6. It destroys usefulness: Few porn users are zealous or sacrificial in Christ’s service. Like other addictions is is a costly distraction that will adversely impact every area of your life, including your career.

7. It perverts your view of women/men: You will find it virtually impossible to look at any woman/man without lustful thoughts.

8. It will spoil sex: If you are an unmarried porn user, you are already undermining your future marriage by storing up perverse images and practices that will soil and spoil the most intimate moments.

9. It may end your marriage: 50% of Christian divorces cite porn use as the reason. “Gutted!” is the word heard most from broken and betrayed wives. “Gutted!” Think about that.

10. It will never leave you: Porn is sticky. Unlike other experiences it is not easily forgotten. Many ex-porn users will tell you that it’s virtually impossible to eradicate what they have viewed from their memories.

Given the availability, accessibility, danger, and wrongness of porn, we need help to stop it reaching us and to stop us reaching it. That’s where Covenant Eyes comes in. It’s a Christian company whose service is built upon Job 31:1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?”

Covenant Eyes

Once Covenant Eyes is installed on all computers and mobile devices, you will benefit from the following services:

Internet Accountability: Covenant Eyes monitors the websites visited, the search terms used, and the YouTube videos watched, and lists them in an easy-to-read report for each user name. This is then sent to your chosen Accountability partner to start a conversation about healthy online habits.

Internet Filtering: This blocks inappropriate web content based on age-appropriateness. You can even create custom block and allow lists, or block the Internet completely at certain times of day.

This costs $9.99 per month for individual users or $13.99 for a family account which lets you have as many user accounts as you want. Yes, $9.99 per month is quite hefty for a student, but on the other hand, think of the cost if you do fall into temptation and become a porn addict. Maybe you can persuade you parents to take out a family account to cover you and your siblings. Personally, I believe it’s an essential part of parenting to cover each family member with a service like this.

And remember this is not just about porn – there are  many other Internet dangers we need protection from. Also, positively, this is about building good Internet habits and regulating time spent online in a disciplined accountable way.

Maybe you don’t want Dad or Mom to see your Internet choices. That itself may be a warning sign. However, you can choose other people to be your accountability partner – a mature friend or an elder in your church maybe. My wife is mine and I am hers.

For more detailed help, see The Porn-Free Family Plan from Tim Challies or my Top 10 Books on Fighting Porn, where you will find much Gospel hope if you are already ensnared.

Here’s the Covenant Eyes promo video and the sign-up.

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

New Student Tip #6: Calendar

New Student Tip #7: Feedly

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students


Check out

Book Deals

Knowing Scripture by R. C. Sproul ($2.99)

Inerrancy and Worldview: Answering Modern Challenges to the Bible by Vern S. Poythress ($0.99)

Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards’s Vision of Living in Between by Stephen J. Nichols ($0.99)

Welcome to a Reformed Church  by Daniel Hyde (Free for the month of September)

The Money Answer Book: Quick Answers to Everyday Financial Questions by Dave Ramsey ($2.99)

Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers ($1.99)

Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans by T. R. Fehrenbach ($1.99)

Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard ($3.99)

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery by Robert M. Poole ($1.99)

The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty ($3.99)

Top Blogs

10 Wise Leadership Lessons I’ll Never Forget

A Former AP Correspondent Explains How and Why His Colleagues Get Israel So Wrong – Tablet Magazine

7 Factors that Contribute to the Impact of Depression-Anxiety | Brad Hambrick

Why I Love to Read Non-Christian Books | Challies Dot Com

Education Is a Privilege, Not a Burden | Desiring God

The 3 Biggest Mental Battles Every Blogger Faces

Welcome Back, My Old Friend | Challies Dot Com

What Would It Have Been Like to Attend a Puritan Worship Service? | TGC

7 Characteristics of Spiritually Beneficial Friendships

The Importance of Fasting

Who Is Saying Medicine is Unimportant? | ACBC

Mental Illness and the Christian: Scripture and Science | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

The Rise of Biblical Counseling – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

It’s Time to Listen: “We Don’t All Look Alike,” a guest post by Carl Ellis, Jr. | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

God Loves My Boring, Unimportant Neighborhood | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

Life with Cancer: One Year Later by Keith Mathison | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Videos

 Two Weeks Under the Sea

Seven-Week Old Boy Has Hearing Aids for the First Time

These Disabled Rock Climbers are Way, Way Stronger Than You

Bountiful Businessman Receives Unbelievable Gift from Stranger


New Student Tip #7: Feedly

Blogs and websites have largely taken over from newspapers and magazines as sources of news, opinion, and articles on current issues. As a student who wants to learn constantly, pray knowledgeably, and witness effectively you will want to be reading a wide selection of the best blogs and websites.

Time Waster?
But how do you do this? Do you have to visit multiple sites every day? That’s a tiresome time-waster that you won’t keep up for long.

Instead, you want to use a Blog/Website Reader like Feedly which you can access via your browser or via an App on your phone or Apple Mac. Once you’ve signed up for this free service, you can immediately and easily start subscribing to blogs and websites so that any fresh content is sent automatically into Feedly for you to read, bookmark, or share via Social Media. You simply enter the name of the blog or website in the Feedly search bar and from the search results you choose what to  subscribe to.

I subscribe to over a hundred blogs and websites, which would take me a couple of hours to get round every day to check for new articles. But using Feedly, I can spend about 20 minutes skimming over the headlines and article summaries and pick the ones I want to read, bookmark, or share.

Where do I start?
That still leaves you with the big question of which blogs, etc. Feedly offers you a number of categories to browse for the best blogs in various subject areas. But to help you get started, I’ve attached a screenshot below of my Feedly subscriptions to give you some suggestions to start with. This also demonstrates the value of another feature on Feedly – the ability to organize your subscriptions into categories so that you can choose what to read based on the time you have available or what you are looking for. I have four categories:

  • Christian Blogs (1): These are my first division blogs, the ones I read just about every weekday.
  • Christian Blogs (2): These are my second division blogs, which I still try to read every day, but if I’m pushed for time I’ll leave them for another day.
  • Technology: Blogs that help me keep abreast of technology, social media trends, etc. I read these maybe once or twice a week.
  • Miscellaneous: A collection of blogs on writing, education, politics, weather, etc. Again, a once or twice a week read.

For the sake of space and usefulness to you, I’ve only included the first two categories in the screenshot. Why not pick 10-20 of them from from column 1 (Christian Blogs 1) to get started and then gradually add more if you are finding you can do this in a time-efficient manner. While you need to exercise discernment in all your reading, there are some blogs in the second column (Christian Blogs 2) that need to be read with greater discernment.

Blogs 1Blogs 2

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

New Student Tip #6: Calendar

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students