How To Take Good Lecture Notes

Good morning, and happy Friday!!!

By now, many of you should be back at school or college/university. Having spent the first week going through course syllabi and getting started, professors launch into lectures and teaching course material. This means that everything discussed in class may be important for future studying and getting a good grade.

All professors have different teaching styles: some hand out worksheets, some stand at the front of the lecture hall and just talk, and some display slideshow presentations with notes (and even post them online if you’re lucky). Information presented in lecture is typically the central concepts of the course most likely to be included on exams. The key is to develop a note-taking system that enables you to perform the three R’s: review, remember, and reflect.

By review, I mean that you can flip through notes after class and make sure you understood all the concepts covered and mark those you need to seek clarification on from a professor during office hours.

Notes also have to be conducive to remembering, so having short, to-the-point notes in bullet-form or numbered off are a real asset. I remember in my first year, all of my notes were in full sentences. Looking back, I was just wasting time in lectures and cramping my hand for no real reason because no one but me was going to see them, and thus I didn’t need perfect grammar and punctuation.

Finally, reflecting on notes is a step that I know a lot of people either skip over or don’t know about. Finding ways to connect lecture concepts to notes and readings from earlier in the year or even from different classes is an excellent way to test subject matter knowledge and to better understand how the concepts learned fit into the larger picture.
There are 7 main techniques I use to take good lecture notes that will help accomplish these three R’s:

Be Prepared

Look over your notes from the previous class and prepare for the day’s lecture, anticipating themes, concepts, and ideas that the lecturer will likely present.

Be a Keener

I know no one likes the idea of sitting up at the front of the classroom but it is a great way to guarantee you will see all of the professor’s notes, be able to hear them clearly, and not be distracted by people on their laptops.

Be Specific

Lecture notes should be the bare-bones outline of the professor’s key ideas along with any examples discussed that make them easier to understand and apply. Jotting down particular terms used and their definitions, and class contributions are both helpful ways to expand upon what is covered in lecture and better prepare for exams. Writing out index cards for a course is another good way to specify the important concepts of a class and test your knowledge of them throughout the term.

Be Selective

Trust me, I understand the temptation to scribble down every word of a professor’s slideshow notes, but this isn’t an effective use of time. Sure, you have all the notes, but odds are you didn’t really think about what you were writing down, or how it fits in with the rest of the course. A much better idea is to write down the main concepts first and then add in filler words if you have time later on. Also, leaving blanks in your notes is a good way to indicate that things are missing and can be filled in after class using the textbook or other learning resources.

Be Old-School

By this, I mean take notes using the tried-and-true pen and paper method. Typing out notes is an awesome way to make sure you get everything down from lectures, especially if you are a slow writer, but studies have shown that people learn much better from physically writing out the words than they do hitting lettered keys to form them.

Be an Active Listener

Actively listening to a professor is a good way to study during the lecture itself. By learning the material as it is taught, less memorization will be needed when it comes time to study for an exam.Plus, professors often have little “tells” that indicate when they are about to cover an important topic, such as long exhalations, change in intonation, sits down, and so on, so those portions of lecture notes can be marked as essential to review.

Be Questioning

I for one detest raising my hand in class to ask questions but it is the best way to seek on-the-spot clarification of a topic not fully understood. This will also help with making more specific and useful notes that highlight difficult concepts.

And those are my 7 tips on taking good lecture notes that will help with effective studying for tests and review for exams.

How do you take notes during classes or lectures???

7 Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep

20160317-152626.jpgGood morning everyone!!!

Although, perhaps not as good of a morning for some of you who did not have the best sleep last night. Poor sleep can be the result of many things, such as stress as the end of term approaches, anxiety about a project or test the next day, issues of personal or family physical or mental health, or just not being able to get comfortable. 

After three years of Psychology courses during which each professor would share some groundbreaking research findings about how to improve the sleep of university students, and my own battles with insomnia, I have compiled my notes into this post of 7 tips for a better night’s sleep.

1. Take a Technology Break

 Now don’t lie: how many of you sleep with your cell phones??? I don’t just mean on the nightstand; I mean resting on your bed or something. A 2013 study found that 39% of students sleep with their cell phones just in case they get a text or call during the night. This percentage peaks at 51% in 11th grade, but even 20% of 4th graders say they do the same thing. Now, for the time being, I am going to ignore the fact that 4th graders even have cell phones because that just baffles me. The point of this is that most people sleep with their phones because they are afraid they will miss something important. But sleep is of top priority between the hours of say 10pm and 7am. Anything someone has to say can wait until the morning. With a phone in bed with you, the brain expects to be woken up, and thus you remain in sleep stages 1 and 2 so you can easily respond to the lighting up of your phone when you receive a text or call.  

2. Exercise Before Sleep, But Not Right Before

I have heard people say that if they go to the gym or run on the treadmill before they go to sleep, then they sleep better. This is true, to a degree, but exercise should be between 2-4 hours before you sleep and no sooner. Otherwise the body is left pumping adrenaline and laying in bed wondering why it can’t fall asleep. 

3. A Bed is for Sleeping

Back in high school I always used to do my homework and studying propped up in bed with my reading pillow. As comfortable as this may be, a bed is for sleeping, and thus should not be used for any other purpose. The brain forms an association between studying and laying in bed, and if you fall asleep while studying, this association is strengthened until the brain is not able to easily fall asleep. 

4. Pick a Spot, and Stick to It

This is a simple matter of classical conditioning. You have probably heard of Pavlov’s dogs. When the dogs saw food, they salivated. But after many times of the food being presented after the sound of a bell, the dogs salivated in response to only the bell, especting that food would follow. Well, the same is true for sleep. When it gets late, you get tired; a natural response. But after many times of sleeping in the same place, the body will get used to sleeping in bed, easier than if it tries to sleep elsewhere. 

5. Pick a Time, and Stick to It

This one doesn’t sound so bad, but here’s the hard part: waking up at the same time even on weekends. I love having a nice lie in as much as the next person, but this messes up the body’s circadian rhythm. I like to think of this as the most temperamental alarm clock because there is a host of things that can put it on snooze like light, jet lag or shift work, anxiety, stress, and the list goes on and on. Going to bed at the same time each night helps your internal clock regulate your sleep and wake phases, meaning you sleep better and wake up easier. 

6. Good Food, No Caffeine

Never go to bed hungry. Denying the body of a physiological need like food is bad enough, but then expecting the brain to forget about nutrients and go to sleep is just malarkey. And we’ve all heard about the repercussions of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that most people use after waking up in the morning or to stay alert during the day through their daily cups of coffee, tea, or even some soft drinks. It is important to note that caffeine is not a replacement for the feeling of well restedness that follows a good night’s sleep, but it can make one feel more alert by inhibiting sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production. Caffeine can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after consumption, and will persist for several hours, with only half of it eliminated after 6 hours. While caffeine is safe to consume in moderation (about 250mg daily), it can negatively affect nutrition by replacing nutritious liquids like water and reduce food consumption because it is an appetite suppressant. 

7. Let Things Cool Down

If you’re like me and are always cold, then this one will be a little more difficult, but definitely worth it. As much as I love cranking up the heating in my room, snuggling up in blankets, and getting all warm and cozy, this actually makes it harder to sleep. Melatonin is a hormone whose secretion plays an important role in sleep, yet melatonin production decreases with increasing temperature. Thus, sleeping with the heat turned down, and even a window open, can really help getting to sleep. 

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