Can you understand this?
I nd hlp w/tkng nts + answrng ?s from thm
It says 'I need help with taking notes and answering questions from them'. If you understood, you may already be on your way to taking effective notes! In this blog post, we'll break down the steps for academic note-taking from a lecture and then look at answering short answer style questions using those notes. Let's dive in!
This step is obvious, but a lot of people forget it. If you have slides, pictures, or any information prior to listening, think about the topic and what you already know about it. This allows your background knowledge and vocabulary knowledge to become active, making you faster and more accurate as you note-take. Also predict where the topic might change when you listen so you're always ahead rather than behind.
Note-taking doesn't mean constantly writing down any words you can catch. It means:
- listening and thinking about what you hear
- deciding what's important to record
- writing it quickly and in a way that you'll be able to understand later
How do you know what to write down? Think about the following:
- Main ideas / opinions of lecturer
- Proper nouns i.e. names of people, places, companies etc.
- Examples used by lecturer *include a symbol or abbreviation in your notes to show it’s an example
- Definitions (This is / This means / That is / The definition is / This is defined as / which is...)
- Words that affect meaning or describe something (e.g. usually / never / amazing / significant / most important / first / primary etc.)
- Relationships between information e.g. examples / cause and effect / reasons *use a symbol or word to show the relationship in your notes e.g.:
- bc for ‘because’
- tf for ‘therefore’
- + for ‘and’
- à for ‘next’
- * for something important or missing
What type of word is usually important information?
- Noun/verb phrases
- Words/phrases that show relationships or connections between information e.g. 'For example' 'Because of' 'As a result' 'Therefore' 'This was because' '...which led to....' 'so...' 'However' 'Why?'
How do I know something's important?
The speaker might:
- change or slow down their voice
- stress some words (say them louder / stronger) or say something to highlight a point like 'I want to stress here…' / 'It's important to notice how...' / 'Interestingly, ...'
- repeat information (…in other words…/ that is / i.e.)
- explain something in detail (e.g. with a lot of background or a lot of supporting information)
- ask a question
The following video shows the note taking process. The listening text is an interview called 'How human cognition is influenced by technology', where the speaker Anastasia Utesheva describes her PhD research.
Notice how the note taking often continues on a previous point even though a new point has been started, which often happens if you decide something is important but don't finish writing it before the next point begins.
As soon as the listening text finishes, quickly check two things:
- you have included everything important in your notes
- you will be able to understand what you've written later
This is a vital step because notes are often messy and missing the important connections between information. A bunch of words won't help you find an answer to a question or remember information later, so you need to make sure you've included the relationships between all the words. See in the next video how a lot of what was missed can be remembered if it's written in straight after the listening.
Do a quick analysis of the questions to work out:
- what word form / structure the answer is likely to be in (e.g. Do you need a noun? If so, is it plural or singular or maybe either?)
- if you remember where answers might be in your notes
Why is it a good idea to this? Because just as preparing yourself before taking notes allows you to note-take more quickly and effectively, analysing questions makes the process of finding answers faster and more effective. Watch the next video to see this process.
If you got all the important information down in your notes, this step should be pretty straightforward! But you still need to look carefully, because a well-written test will have a few answers that 'sound right'. This is why you need detail and connections between information in your notes; it helps you distinguish between the exact piece/s of information that you need and similar information that might sound close, but isn't quite right. Let's have a go!
- Prepare yourself
- Note-take: listen, think, write.
- Complete your notes.
- Analyse the questions.
- Find the answers!
Now it's your turn! Do some practice (you could try this RMIT Learning Lab tutorial or this practice unit from software program EASE) and try these tips out, then tell us in the comments if they worked for you.