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Systems and formats of notes in the classroom

Many different formats are used to structure information and make it easier to find and understand later. The format of the original record can often be informal and/or unstructured.

  • A common format for such notes is shorthand, which allows large amounts of information to be put on paper very quickly.
  • Historically, note-taking has been an analog process, written in notebooks or other paper methods such as Post-It notes.
  • In the digital age, the use of computers, tablet computers, and personal digital assistants (PDAs) are common.
  • The note-taker usually needs to work quickly, and various note-taking styles and techniques attempt to make the best use of time.
  • The average speaking speed is 2-3 words per second (that’s 120-180 words per minute), but the average handwriting speed is only 0.2-0.3 words per second (that’s 12-18 words per minute).

Regardless of the medium, note-taking can be roughly divided into linear and non-linear methods that can be combined.

  • Linear note-taking is the process of writing down information in the order in which you receive it. Linear notes are a fairly common way to take notes, but the potential to simply transcribe everything that is said or on the presentation slide is quite high.
  • Outlining is one of the most common note-taking systems. Notes and thoughts are structured and logically organized, reducing the time needed for editing and review and allowing a lot of information to be processed in a short amount of time.
  • Outlining is less effective for classes that involve many formulas and graphs, such as math or chemistry.
  • Computerized note-taking, whether using a word processor, outline software, or a digital note-taking program such as OneNote or Evernoteallows you to easily revise the outline and add more entries or lines.

Regardless of the system you use, it may be best to focus on writing down the most important information first.