There are many different types of note-making strategies. See Note-making Strategies.
The Cornell system produces an excellent note from which you can review ideas. It incorporates a section for traditional notes with a ‘Cue Column’ and a ‘Summary’ section. The Cue Column, on the left of the page, allows the note-maker to write key terms, concepts, sequences, and/or questions that will cue the brain to remember the detail notes. The bottom section of the page is reserved for a brief summary which is very useful when reviewing notes.
It can be used very effectively with the SQ4R system. At the ‘Q’ step of SQ4R, the note-maker writes down his/her question in the ‘Cue Column’. Questions in the Cue Column are then used in the revision and review stages. The Cue Column can be easily folded over to hide the notes thus acting as a natural self-test mechanism.
For more information, including examples, see the Active Reading and Note-making module (for undergraduate students). Find the Cornell System in the pdf.
Why might you choose to make a concept or mind map as your note?
First of all, consider your learning styles: visual, auditory, and tactile. Learners who are visual and/or tactile will benefit from constructing a graphic map of the information read. Visual learners like to see a visual representation of the reading materials while tactile learners like to do something when they read. For visual learners, mind mapping appeals to their love of images, pictures, and colours. For tactile learners, constructing a mind map while reading keeps you active so you don‘t lose concentration and focus. They are fun to make and can be easily redrawn for review purposes. Irrespective your learning style, all readers can benefit from concept/ mind mapping as this type of note making requires the reader to distinguish main ideas from details. It is, therefore, a particularly useful method to employ if you are a reader who ‘gets lost in the detail’.
For more information, including examples, see the Active Reading and Note-making module (for undergraduate students). Find Note-making with Mindmaps and Combining Cornell and Mindmaps in the pdf.
Some visual learners like to highlight text with colour. Colours can aid comprehension and retention if employed effectively. For example, each colour represents a different type of detail: one colour for main ideas/themes, another colour for subordinate ideas, etc. Some readers who use mind maps as a note-making tool connect the coloured text to the same colours on their mind map.
However, use highlighting sparingly. Why? Highlighting can be used as a procrastination tactic so you can avoid really understanding and working with the text. Highlighting is usually about marking what you should learn versus learning it now!
Reading & Reciting Out loud
Auditory learners (note the person who mutters under his/her breath while reading) don‘t need to be told that reading out loud is a helpful strategy as they do so naturally. If you are not a strong auditory learner, we still recommend trying to recite out loud some of the time as research indicates it has a positive effect on retention. For information on the importance of reading and reciting out loud, see Why You Should Read Out Loud? in our module on Active Reading and Note-making (for undergraduate students).
Listening to “Memory” Music
Studies have shown that certain high-frequency music accelerates learning and improves memory. In particular, music of the Baroque period and classical Eastern instruments such as the sitar from India and the koto harp from Japan has positive effects on learning and memory.
For more information about memory music, see Super Memory Music.