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Why taking notes (especially by hand) matters April 23, 2011

Posted by samwyse in Uncategorized.
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Lectures work best if you take notes, especially by hand. Note-taking prevents information from going “in one ear and out the other” because, like discussion, you activate more areas of your brain as you take notes; think of it as having a discussion with your notebook; I don’t know anyone who can write as fast as a lecturer talks, so you have to be constantly deciding what to write down instead of letting your mind drift around. This doesn’t just work at school. When I go to a baseball game (for pleasure, anyway, rather than to schmooze with clients), I try to get a scorecard and track every play. I’ve found that I remember the details of those games much better that the ones where I kicked back and drank a beer. (And I remember *any* game that I actually attended better than the ones I watch on TV, so try to actually attend class, not depend on someone else’s retransmission.)

Baseball scorecards are optimized for taking notes on baseball games. Likewise, at a lecture you should use Cornell Notes, a tools optimized for taking notes at lectures. There are thousands of web site dedicated to this, so research it yourself at http://www.google.com/search?q=%22cornell+notes%22.

Finally, if you don’t believe me then look at what others have to say. For example, http://brainz.org/brain-hacks/ claims (in bullet point 3) that “Taking notes by hand instead of typing them, will help you retain the information more effectively, as the pressure points activated by holding a pen are linked to the creative and memory centers of the brain.” If that sounds a bit unbelievable, research reported at http://www.mpiweb.org/magazine/pluspoint/20110124/Taking_Notes backs up the claim.