Taking Good Class Notes

        I can talk faster than most people can write.  That means that you can not accurately transcribe absolutely everything I say -- nor should you.  By developing proper note-taking skills, you not only learn the course material, you also learn how to organize and prioritize information more effectively.  Needless to say, these skills in organization and prioritization will help you long after you have left this class and long after you have left SPSU.
        As far as organization is concerned, try to take notes in an outline format.  If you write out the notes in the same way that you would write a letter (the same way in which this document is written), you will have a bunch of words jumbled together in an almost incomprehensible fashion.  Instead, take notes in an outline format, as follows.  This, in turn, will help you to prioritize the relevant information.


I.) Introduction

II.) Organization
    - NO letter format
    - outline format instead
    - helps with prioritization *

III.) Prioritization
    - Roman #s most important
    - outline section = essay paragraph

IV.) Summary
    - how to tell significance
    - NO marginal notes
    - use shorthand

        The outline will also help you to prioritize information.  In the outline above, you can see clearly that the major theme of the outline is "Good note-taking skills," and that the this theme in turn consists of four broad topics, marked by Roman numerals.  Within each Roman-numeral section, there are somewhat less important examples of several concepts.  When time is limited, discuss the big topics first, not the little ones.  An essay based on this outline is much more likely to be a careful analysis of the broad issues, supported by specific examples, rather than a mish-mash of facts strung together without any overarching analysis.  Also, remember that a section of your outline equates to a paragraph in your essay.  After all, that is why outlines are so important -- they enable you to write your essay much more easily and effectively.
        In conclusion, use the outline form of note taking to both organize and prioritize information.  You can judge the significance of information based in part on how much time we spend talking about it in class.  You can also judge significance by assessing how many people, events, or ideas are linked to a particular topic.  The more links, the more a topic affected later events, the more significant that topic is likely to be.  Sometimes, I will even say that "This is important because . . . " or "This is significant because . . ."  If you print the course outlines off of the web site, make certain that you add lots of spaces between each item on these outlines  This will allow you to take copious additional notes.  Whatever you do, DO NOT try to take notes in the margins of the print-outs.  This will merely result in chaotic, disorganized, and essentially useless notes.  Finally, there is nothing wrong with using shorthand in your notes to enable you to write down information more quickly.  Use "+"  and "+" instead of "and" and "led to."  Write "am rev" instead of "American Revolution."  Use capital letters or an asterisk to indicate significance.