Three Ways to Think About Note-Taking

One of my professors doesn’t allow laptops in class. Two others strongly suggested that we not use laptops, citing the potential for distraction and the multiple studies finding that note-taking by hand is more effective than type-written notes. Beyond that, however, my professors haven’t weighed in with any additional guidance on note-taking.

But behind every page of notes there’s a unique mind and learning style, so I thought it would be interesting to ask a few classmates to share their notes from a class we took together in order to see how their distinct personalities and preferences come through. They also said a few words about what they hope to capture or accomplish when they take notes.

Student 1)*

Thoughts on note-taking:

As the designated note-taker, I didn’t do much different from what I do for myself – every class I try to capture the important points and I ask myself if I missed class, what would I want to know? For Criminal Law in particular, I found that the tables for each statute (which show which facts apply to different parts of the statute) are important to note because such a big part of criminal law is reading statutory law and finding the necessary facts that apply. 

*This student served as the designated note-taker for the class. She typed notes so that the rest of the class could follow the professor’s guidance to handwrite their notes, knowing they have back-up in capturing essential content.

Syeda Clip


Student 2)

Thoughts on note-taking:

Mainly, I want to have context for what is being discussed in class, so I print out anything that was assigned but isn’t in the textbook. Highlights in these are mostly aesthetic, but sometimes it helps to separate out the individual elements as we go through them. I also take notes in the margins, especially when we’re applying statutes to cases. I also jot down some notes on notecards. Those are mostly vocabulary with some highly summarized cases. For this class, I put “CRIM” and the date in the top-right corner to keep track of them.

Jordan Clip


Student 3)

Thoughts on note-taking:

It varies from class to class, based on the professor’s emphasis and the form of readings we are given. Since this class used a textbook, separate cases, and separate statutes, I tried to have a minimal amount of information centralized in one place, then took additional notes in the book and in the separate cases and statutes themselves. I generally highlight and take notes hoping that will help me to integrate certain information into my memory, and then write down and clearly signal the big takeaways that the professors or the readings flag as concepts that should definitely be retained and used down the line.

Ian Clip

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