Classes, How-to

(Comic)ally Good Notes

Computer. Tablet. Notebook. Photographic memory.

Regardless of how you do it, we all take notes in some way or another. Some of us may take notes a little less frequently than we should, while others take notes with the frantic detail of a court stenographer. Personal note-taking preferences seem to depend on a couple things: how much of the course is based upon lecture material, how much sleep you got the night before, how neat your handwriting is and if you charged your laptop today.

Taking notes are a huge part of attending lecture and the quality of your notes can sometimes determine how well you will do in a course. The goal is finding that perfect balance between understanding most of the course material as it’s taught and jotting the most pertinent information down before your brain moves onto the next genius thing your prof says. Unfortunately, not all of us are lucky enough to have found that balance. Here are some of the types of note-takers you might know.

The Doodler

This sort of note-taker is miraculously talented enough to somehow ‘doodle’ penciled creations you couldn’t dream of and write down all of the prof’s main points. Which, now that you think about it, are really all you needed anyways. You squint to see what you thought was a doodle of a dog, only to realize this guy has done his own rendition of the Mona Lisa. Inspired, you attempt to make a doodle of your own.

No. Scratch that. Handwritten notes in cursive are about as creative as your margins are going to get.

Pros: The Doodler’s notes are one of two things: Heartbreakingly hipster or total pinterest aesthetic.

Cons: In the time they spent doodling, you applied to four summer jobs. #$$$

A cartoon of a doodler-notetaker drawing in the margins of their handwritten notes and also getting all their notes done. Impossibly, in the last frame you realize they have drawn The Mona Lisa.

“The Doodler”

The A++ Student

This student is a note-taking force to be reckoned with. They have incredible self-discipline while sitting through a three hour lecture and it seems that even the professor’s dad jokes cannot break their focus. While you wonder if anything has happened on Instagram since you checked it fifteen minutes ago, this student is sitting cool as a cucumber and even appears to be enjoying the lecture. Do they even have Twitter, and if so why aren’t they checking it? By the end of class, you have pins and needles in both your legs and they have five pages of well articulated notes and a thesis for an upcoming essay.

Sigh.

Pros: The best notes in the entire universe. They are also a mini-celebrity on your class Facebook group. You are 100% sure there is a direct correlation.

Cons: No room for improvement? Heh. Heh… *Cries*

A cartoon of a student walking to lecture with a bunch of thoughts in her head; "I am going to be early!", "My laptop is fully charged!" - this student is very prepared. In lecture she is very focused, and in the last frame she receives an A++ grade!

“The A++ Student”

The Netflix n’ Note-taker

This student is never behind on their shows, and by the fourth week of class you’re pretty sure they have access to every version of Netflix that exists worldwide. However, they spend so much time streaming in class that you start to wonder if they even go here. Surely no one at U of T can watch this much Netflix and still pass all their courses…what’s their secret?

You find out during midterm season: they haven’t taken down a single word since syllabus week. They also want your notes.

Pros: They get to watch The Office while you try to understand metaphysics.

Cons: They are failing metaphysics.

First Frame: A girl thinking "I will just watch the last 15 minutes Gossip Girl". 2nd Frame: Girl is in class watching Netflix and not paying attention to the lecture. 3rd Frame: Shows an iMessage chat, with the girl asking for notes "because she was sick". 4th Frame: The girl gets an F on her midterm.

“Netflix n’ Note-taker”

Me

I take notes all sorts of ways. Here’s how I break it down:

Typed-up Computer Notes: I take notes with my computer in classes that are super fast paced. Generally, I bring up the lecture slides (if I have access to them) so I can take screenshots of any detailed diagrams/photos/graphs, etc. that might appear on an exam and upload them directly into my notes. Sometimes, when I have extra readings in PDF form, I will copy and paste the readings into my notes so I have a whole week of material in one spot and I can easily refer back to it during lecture/tutorial. (This trick is especially helpful if you tend to lose track of what readings go with what lecture!)

Handwritten Notes: I hand write notes when I know the class is a little on the slow side or if I have a professor who goes off on interesting “tangents.” Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tangent, but it can get a little crazy trying to note every thought your professor has. When I hand write notes, I get picky about what goes on my page which is very helpful during exam season when I’m trying to condense important material.

“Printing Lecture Slides” Notes: This is my least favourite way of obtaining notes, but it is super helpful in really science-y classes. Printing off lecture slides can save you a lot of time while in lecture, which makes this a great method if you know you have trouble internalizing the information coming at you. Unfortunately, at the end of the semester when I throw out over 100 pages of scribbled on lecture slides I always get an unmistakable feeling of environment-destroying guilt. :(

There are so many ways to take notes in class and all sorts of note-takers to observe in lecture to procrastinate taking your own. What kind of note-taker are you? Comment below or let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #UofTNotes!

In the meantime, happy note-taking everyone!