The purpose of participation is to make learning a more active process. With respect to notetaking, class participation is beneficial in that it helps the student to better understand the material. This, in turn, improves the accuracy of the notes. Class participation also helps the student to pay better attention during lecture, improving the completeness of the notes.
Tips for class participation are listed below.
- If you don't understand something, ask the instructor to explain it again.
- If you missed a piece of important information, ask the instructor to repeat it.
- Ask relevant questions identified during pre-class preparation (see the Preparation section of this page).
- Answer questions raised by the instructor.
- Bring up information from the textbook as it relates to the lecture material.
- Volunteer anecdotal information as it relates to the lecture material.
Students must be cautious of the following things when participating in class discussions.
- Make sure that all questions and comments are relevant to the topic at hand.
- Keep all questions and comments short and to the point.
- Avoid monopolizing or dominating class discussions.
- Don't ask the instructor to repeat or explain information more than once or twice. If you don't get it down, ask the instructor again after class or during his/her office hours. Or, get the information from another student or the textbook.
Abbreviations, Symbols, Shorthand, and Gleaning
Abbreviation involves using shortened versions of words to represent the complete form of the word. Symbols, such as our alphabet, are abstract representations of some word or idea. Shorthand makes use of both abbreviations and symbols. The gleaning strategy (Hulme, 1993) involves representing the main ideas of a reading assignment (or lecture notes) in shorthand version. With gleaning, vowels are omitted, words are shortened, and symbols are used to represent the main ideas of the text.
These strategies are useful in notetaking because they allow one to write more quickly, once symbols and shorthand systems have been internalized. This helps students to keep up with lecture and record more information. In addition, the material takes up less space in one's notebook.
The gleaning strategy has additional advantages. The material is covered several times, enhancing retention. Gleaning makes reading a more active process. The notecards of gleaned information are useful for exam preparation. The strategy enhances student confidence (Hulme, 1993).
Guidelines for Using Abbreviations, Symbols, and Shorthand
Directions for using abbreviations, symbols, and shorthand when taking notes are summarized below (REFERENCE).
- Use standard math, accounting, and science symbols. Examples:
- Use standard abbreviations and leave out periods. Examples:
- dept = department
- NYC = New York City
- Use only the first syllable of a word. Examples:
- pol = politics
- dem = democracy
- cap = capitalism
- Use the entire first syllable and the first letter of the second syllable. Examples:
- subj = subject
- tot = totalitarianism
- ind = individual
- To distinguish among various forms of the same word, use the first syllable of the word, an apostrophe, and the ending of the word. Examples:
- arch'y = archaeology
- arch'ist = archaeologist
- arch'l = archaeological
- Use just enough of the beginning of a word to form a recognizable abbreviation. Examples:
- assoc associated
- ach achievement
- info information
- Omit vowels from the middle of words, retaining only enough consonants to provide a recognizable skeleton of the word. Examples:
- bkgd = background
- mvmt = movement
- prblm = problem
- Form the plural of a symbol or abbreviated word by adding 's.' Examples:
- chaps = chapters
- fs = frequencies
- /s = ratios
- Use 'g' to represent 'ing' endings. Examples:
- decrg = decreasing
- ckg = checking
- estblg = establishing
- Spell out short words. Examples:
- Leave out unimportant verbs. Examples:
- Leave out unnecessary articles. Examples:
- If a term, phrase, or name is initially written out in full during the lecture, initials can be substituted whenever the term, phrase, or name is used again. Example:
- Modern Massachusetts Party MMP
- Use symbols for common connective or transition words. Examples:
- & = and
- w/ = with
- w/o = without
- vs = against
- Create your own set of abbreviations and symbols. You may wish to develop separate sets of symbols and abbreviations for different courses or subjects.
Other Symbols and Abbreviations
- as a result of / consequences of <--->
- resulting in --->
- and / also +
- equal to / same as =
- following ff
- most importantly *
- less than <
- greater than >
- especially = esp
The Gleaning Strategy
Directions for Hulme's (1993) gleaning strategy are as follows.
- Read the text.
- Identify the main ideas of the assignment.
- Represent the main ideas in shorthand, symbols and abbreviations.
- Record the gleaned ideas on notecards.
- Review the lesson by restating in complete sentences the main ideas of the lecture, based on the information recorded in shorthand on the notecards.
The following example of gleaning is from Hulme (1993, p. 404).
- Text: Spain Attempts to End Cuban Revolt of 1895
- "A change in United States tariff policy towards Cuba was a factor which contributed to the 1895 revolt. Cuban sugar was allowed to enter the United States duty free any time when the McKinley Tarrif Act of 1890 was enacted. As a result the Cuban sugar industry experienced exceptional prosperity and the island's economy mirrored this. But in 1894 a new tarrif reinstated a noteworthy duty upon Cuban sugar which caused sugar prices to fall. In the best of times Cuban workers were treated only somewhat better than slaves. As the state of the sugar industry worsened, conditions for the workers in Cuba became despicable. This seeded discontent which in time erupted into an insurrection against Spanish rule. Sympathizers in the U.S. quickly responded to the call for aid which came from mobilized Cubans."
"When the Spanish government was unable to stop the Cuban revolt with its established police methods, it resorted to a hard line approach. It challenged the guerrilla warfare of the insurgents by gathering up the civilians from trouble zones and placing them into fortified towns. This 'reconcentration policy' was protested by the U.S. government. Epidemics of disease hit these concentration camps and were vividly reported in the American press. Newspapers kept things heated by exaggerating stories of Spanish atrocities. This constant bombardment by the emotional news stories stirred the American people and caused them to demand that the U.S. wage war to free Cuba from unjust Spanish rule."
- The main ideas gleaned from the text are outlined below in shorthand form.
- "McKin Tarrif 1890 - sugr du free = profits
1894 tarrif back - insurrect vs Sp
Police meth ineffctv - guer warf = reconcent policy
Disease, US news exag - rally free Cu"
- The last step involves reviewing the information by putting the shorthand ideas back into complete sentences.
- Cuban sugar entered the U.S. duty-free because of the McKinley Tarrif Act of 1890. Profits soared.
- Sugar tariffs were reinstituted in 1894, leading to a Cuban insurrection against Spain.
- Police methods were ineffective against the insurrection, and Cuban guerilla warfare was met with a reconcentration policy by the Spanish.
- The spread of disease and other problems at reconcentration camps were exaggerated in the U.S. news, prompting a U.S. rally to free Cuba from Spanish rule.
Three-ring binders, loose-leaf paper, and dividers are strongly suggested for organizing notes and other course papers. Three-ring binders offer a number of advantages to spiral notebooks. First, notes may be easily inserted and removed for reorganizing, recopying, or reviewing. Second, supplementary course papers may be organized and added using a hole punch. This gets all course materials in one place for easy studying. Third, dividers may be inserted for separating notes by major topic or for separating notes from syllabi, handouts, quizzes, homework, and other course papers. Fourth, three-ring binders are easy to transport from class to room to library. Fifth, binders allow one to locate material more easily than spiral notebooks. Finally, most three-ring binders have inner pockets for storing extra paper.
Tips for using three-ring binders for organizing notes are as follows.
- Purchase a three-ring binder for each class every quarter or semester. Buy certain colors for different classes if desired. For example, use red binders for classes in your major, blue binders for science classes, green for history, etc. Using different colors makes it easier to locate the correct binders when they are needed for class or for studying.
- Label the spine and/or front of each notebook with the course name and your name. Include your address and/or phone number inside the folder in case it is lost. Use sticky labels rather than marking directly on the binder with a magic marker; labels can be removed and changed more easily if the binder is re-used.
- Purchase divider pages to put in each three-ring notebook. Use them to separate different topics in the notes or to separate notes from other course papers like exams, handouts, and homework.
- Reorganize and recopy your notes if necessary (see the Recopying and Reorganization section of this page).
- Put the notes in the proper sections of the binder.
- Purchase or borrow a hole punch so that other course papers may be added to the binder. Put the syllabus, exams, homework problems, and handouts in separate sections of the binder, or add them by topic after each section of notes.
Color coding is used to distinguish different types of information and to organize notes. The strategy may be used while recording notes during a presentation, but more often it is used after class.
The strategy has several advantages. It provides an opportunity for reviewing notes, which aids in understanding and registration in memory. Color coding provides a quick means of distinguishing important material to study for exams. It also allows one to better organize notes.
Directions for using color coding to identify different types information and to organize information are given in the following paragraphs.
Identification of Information
During a presentation, color coding may be used to distinguish different types of information or to distinguish more from less important information.
- To distinguish different types of information, a different color of ink is used for each major topic of information. For example, in a course on early childhood education, notes on science and mathematics instruction are written in blue ink but notes on outdoor play are written in red ink.
- To distinguish the importance of information, key words, names, dates, or ideas that trigger memory are recorded in a color different from the supporting or descriptive information. For example, in a physics course, the names of important laws such as Gauss' Law, Coulomb's Law, and Lenz's Law are written in red ink while the definitions and equations are listed in black ink.
There are drawbacks to color coding during a presentation. It takes concentration to remember to switch colors at the appropriate times. Preparation before class is often needed to identify the main topics that should be written in different colors. The "different color=different topic" strategy is difficult to use in classes where the instructor skips back and forth between topics.
Color coding to identify important information is more commonly done after a presentation. First, scan the notes to get a general idea of the content of the lecture(s). Then use a highlighter to color the important terms, people, dates, and ideas.
- Use one color to highlight all important information related to one topic. Then use another color to highlight all important information related to another topic.
- Or, you may want to use a different highlighter color for each types of information, such as yellow for terms, pink for people, etc.
- Another options is to use one color to highlight terms or ideas and another color to highlight key words in the definitions or descriptions. For example, the following term and definition from chemistry class can be highlighted using two different colors, here represented by bold and italics: isotope = atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus.
Regardless of how the colors are used, it is important to be selective in highlighting information. You do not want to end up with pages of solid color. Pick out only the most important terms or ideas. Don't highlight the entire explanation or definition, but pick out key words instead.
Organization of Information
One way in which color coding may be used to organize information is discussed under the Clip-Strip section of Note taking for Research Papers in this page.
Color coding may also be used to organize lecture notes after class. To do so, first scan the notes to get a general idea of the content of the lecture. Then compare the notes to the textbook and/or syllabus to determine the major topics covered in the notes. Assign a highlighter color to each of the major topics, and highlight all the information pertaining to each topic using its assigned color. The notes then may be reorganized according to the major topics.
This strategy is particularly useful for courses in which the instructors skips back and forth between different topics. It also allows one to incorporate textbook material into the notes, resulting in a more complete and accurate set of notes to use in exam preparation.
The purpose of taping lectures or meetings is to make a permanent and complete record of the presentation. Tape recording is done during the class or meeting, and the tapes are reviewed afterward.
This strategy has several advantages. Tape recording is a particularly useful strategy for auditory learners, who often have difficulty recording the written language. Audio tapes provide the opportunity to concentrate on listening during a lecture or meeting and to record notes later from the tapes, using the pause and rewind buttons if necessary. A second advantage is that tapes help any person record more complete and accurate notes. Finally, taping allows the individual to hear the material again, providing an effective review of the material. When coupled with visual review, taping activates additional senses, increasing the effectiveness of registration in memory.
Tips for tape recording lectures or meetings are outlined below.
- Talk to the instructor or speaker to obtain permission for taping. Explain why taping is necessary and for what purposes tapes will be used.
- Purchase the appropriate equipment. Buy the smallest recorder possible that records with an adequate level of sound and clarity. Recorders that automatically flip to the other side of the tape without removing the tape are preferred. Buy the longest playing cassette tapes.
- Experiment with volume controls before the lecture or meeting begins. Set the volume to pick up the speaker but not background noises. If the volume is set too high, the recording may become distorted.
- Sit in the front of the room with your tape recorder in order to get the best sound quality possible. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid leaving the tape recorder unattended while taping.
- When changing tapes or turning tapes, be as quiet as possible. Try not to distract other people or interrupt the lecture or meeting.
- Record the course name or meeting and the date on the tape. If there is more than one tape per lecture or meeting, write "1 of 2" and "2 of 2" on the tapes.
- Listen to the tape as soon after the lecture or meeting as possible, while the information is still fresh.
- Fill in missing information in the handwritten notes based on the taped material. Recopy or reorganize as needed.
- For school lectures, use the tapes when reviewing for quizzes or exams.