Note taking and Reading Strategies
Note taking Strategies
Several strategies may be used by students to improve the completeness, accuracy, and recall of psychology lecture notes. These include preparation, taping, study groups, organizational formats, recopying and reorganizing, and review (J. Ihlenfeld, CAL).
The quality and organization of your notes will likely improve if you prepare for each lecture. Be sure to read the assigned chapters before class. Write an outline template to use when recording notes in class - the outline can be based on chapter headings and subheadings in the book. Write down questions to ask during lecture. Make xeroxed copies of illustrations, on which you may record notes and explanations. Xerox the chapter term list or the book glossary to take to class - then listen for those vocabulary terms during lecture.
If you have difficulty keeping up with lecture notes, or if you are an auditory learner, taping the lectures is a helpful strategy. After asking the instructor's permission, make an audio recording of lectures using a small tape recorder. This permanent and complete (except for information written on the board) record of the lecture may be reviewed after class to fill in gaps or make corrections in the notes.
Form a study group for team notetaking. One approach is for students to meet after class to share their notes. Another strategy is to divide the lecture into parts and have each student record notes for one part; meet later to exchange notes.
Choose an appropriate format for organizing notes. The Cornell method works well for many students in psychology courses. With this approach, one uses the left-hand side of the page to record key terms, names, dates, and major concepts. The right-hand side of the paper is used to record lists, definitions, drawings, and explanations.
Recopy and Reorganize Notes
Psychology information should be reviewed often in order to make connections among different topics and to aid in retention. One way to review is to recopy your lecture notes by hand or on a computer. When recopying, you might need to reorganize the notes into another format that is understandable and easy to remember. Outlines, tables, webs, or a combination of these and other formats may be used. Examples of these organizational approaches are given in the information organization section.
For classes in which test material comes exclusively or almost entirely from lectures, it is very important to choose an efficient method of reviewing the notes periodically. It is suggested that students review the notes as soon after class as possible. After reviewing the new notes for the day, review all prior notes since the last test.
To be as effective as possible, the reviewing process should actively engage students. Instead of simply reading the notes to yourself, try reading aloud or into a tape recorder. Listen to lecture tapes while reviewing the notes. Recopying is an active way of reviewing notes. Try self-testing during the review. This is easier when the Cornell or two-column formats are used to record notes; cover the notes column and use the information in the recall column for self-testing. Another way to actively review notes is to reorganize them into other formats, such as flash cards, matrices, and hierarchies (see the information organization section).
Reading strategies for psychology include understanding textbook organization, learning vocabulary, looking for major ideas and emphases, SQ3R, and margin notes.
Psychology texts are often arranged topically or chronologically, the latter in terms of processes, history, or stage of life. Chronological formats, in particular, often require that one read early chapters in order to fully understand later chapters. Pay attention to section headings, subheadings, and italicized words (C. Krause, CAL).
Pay close attention to terms and concepts introduced in the readings. Familiar words may have new and specialized meanings in psychology, so readers must be careful (C. Krause, CAL).
Major Ideas and Emphasis
Psychology readings often stress particular theories with supporting evidence. Be careful not to confuse what is fact and what is theory or opinion (C. Krause, CAL).
The SQ3R approach is a five-step process to reading: survey the assignment, form questions on the material, read one section, recite the main points in that section, and review the entire assignment when all section are completed. This strategy works well for both textbook chapters as well as research articles in psychology (J. Ihlenfeld, CAL).
Instead of highlighting when reading, students might find it useful to record notes from the readings in the margins of the assignment. Many textbooks and journals leave adequately wide margins for writing key terms, names, concepts, dates, and other important information or questions about each section or subsection. Compared to highlighting, recording margin notes while reading is more active and, therefore, aids in comprehension and recall (J. Ihlenfeld, CAL).