Use active, not passive note-taking
Learn to differentiate between active and passive note-taking. Active note-taking is the most effective because it helps you create meaning from what you learn. Don't do the hours of passive note-taking only to realise that you have not organised your notes in a way that helps you make meaning from them. You are less likely to remember things you learn passively.
What is passive note-taking? It includes:
- underlining or highlighting words
- cutting and pasting from online documents
- trying to write down everything you hear
- copying slides from the screen
- copying lots of direct quotes rather than putting the ideas in your own words
- writing notes on everything you read, because you're not sure what will turn out to be important
- not evaluating or criticising the sources you use, but just accepting them as suitable evidence
Notice that the above behaviours will be a waste of time because you are collecting and highlighting anything that might be useful without any critical purpose.
Active note-taking includes:
- thinking about what you want to get out of your reading or research before you start
- looking for answers to any questions you may have about the topic
- looking for connections within the topic you're studying
- writing notes mostly in your own words with your own explanation of what something says or means
Notice how active note-taking is a process of critical evaluation and selection, as well as the start of your learning process.