Saturday, October 3, 2015
The Purpose of Note-Taking
When I was in high school, and even during my undergrad years, notes served one primary function: to highlight the main points of a lecture or other class material. This helped me to understand what the big takeaway points were in a class, and also helped me to study by pointing to the major points of content with big, florescent green stars and arrows.
I've just completed my first week of classes as a graduate student, and I'm already feeling the pressure of the sheer volume of literature that I have to read for my classes. An English student, I knew that I was in for a lot of reading. That's kind of the point after all. But in an academic atmosphere where I'm reading around a hundred pages of literary theory every couple of days, I've found that note-taking has taken on a new significance and purpose. Now, instead of taking notes solely to highlight the main points of an article or lecture, I'm taking them to remember what I heard and where I heard it.
These sources are important especially in light of the fact that I may need to use them for research material in the near (or distant) future, and being able to glance through an obscenely large file folder of printed articles is much easier when I've scribbled the main points near the title of each one. It also helps to connect material to different classes, underscoring its relevance in literature as a whole regarding the ideas laid out there. Being able to look at an essay by Thomas De Quincey and connect his ideas of absence as meaning with the use of space, textual and artistic, in a graphic novel is something that will be useful to me for the rest of my career. But accessing that information to make those connections is much easier when I can glance through a few pages pull the ones that say something like "meaning in absence" and "the blank space creates meaning."
Note-taking is a real art, to be certain. You have to know yourself as much as the material you're studying, what you want to get out of it and how best to organize it for your future reference, in order to get the most out of it. I'm still regaining my footing as I return to the world of academia, but note-taking is one of the skills that I'm ever so grateful to have retained from my former school years. If you're out of practice, these tips on how to take stellar academic notes from Dartmouth College should help you hone or rediscover your talents.