Taking Good Notes and Other Tips for a Good Start to the Semester

1) Seek out each of your professors

-They all have office hours and are available to make appointments.

-They want to see you and answer your questions.

-It’s OK to walk in and say, “Hi, I’m ______ in your _________ class and I just wanted to introduce myself”.

-A first meeting is also a good chance to have a preliminary discussion about written assignments.

-You may want to talk about specific reading, research, or note-taking techniques applicable to a certain topic or discipline.

2) Go to every class and activity

-There’s no surer route to academic peril than skipping class.

-If you are legitimately ill, make sure to touch base with your professors and get notes from a friend. Also, if you are that sick, you need to visit the Health Center.

3) Find a note-taking system that works for you

-You need to have a good organizational system for each of your classes.  At minimum, that would include a notebook and folder for each class and an overall calendar for general planning

-You can visit the Academic Advising Office if you have questions about notebook organization.

-You may wish to explore the Cornell Method, outlining, and mapping techniques for your notebook.

-One important thoughtyour notes should not be a strict transcript of every last word said in the class.   You're sure to miss important information should you take this approach, not to mention having a very sore hand from frantic scribbling.   Your task instead should be to jot down enough keywords and symbols to spur your memory later that day when you take time to review and piece together your notes. 

-In some cases, you may wish to take time after class to record
lecture notes in outline format and integrate materials from readings
into your course notes.

-Take time regularly before and after class to review notes from the previous few weeks of classes. 

-Compare notes with a classmate and quiz one another on your recollections.

-4) Go to Bed

-Going to bed on weeknights at 2:30 AM when you have a slew of 8:30 classes is not going to do much for your class participation and attendance. Plus, no one functions as well when they are regularly getting less than 7 hours of rest per night.   If you don't believe us, check out Professor Pamela Thacher's research on sleep deprivation that she has done as a member of the St. Lawrence Psychology Department.   Make sure to take advantage of daylight hours, too, especially during the short days in the winter.

5) Begin your research papers now

-Visit the library research staff early in the semester

-Talk about your research ideas with your professors

-Leave time in your time management plan for revision-- at least a week for longer papers.

-DO NOT put yourself in a situation where you are pulling repeated all-nighters in November and December. Both the quality of your work and your health will suffer.

6) Read your syllabi and think about how you'll manage your time

-Professors put a great deal of work into their syllabi and expect their students to know them inside and out. Syllabi are the most important time management tool you have. Take time at the beginning of the semester to figure out how you will manage your time to meet the listed course requirements. Think now about where you'll study, when you'll read and review notes, and what strategies you'll use to prepare for each class. Generally, you should plan on setting aside six-nine hours each week to prepare for each of your classes.  Use your syllabi to get an early start on longer assignments, so that you're not overwhelmed at the end of the semester.

7) Learn about resources on campus

-It doesn’t hurt to pay a visit to the QRC, Word Studio, and Academic Advising Office right now to see what each office offers.

8) Be ready to participate in class

-Come prepared with questions that the course texts raised for you.    If you are reading from a laptop, don't forget that programs like Adobe Acrobat and others offer the opportunity to annotate readings on-line (e.g., taking notes in the margin, listing questions as they arise, creating links to background materials, highlighting and underlining key sections)

-Listen actively to others;  build off of their points.

-Non-verbal cues are important, too:  Make eye contact with the speaker, sit up straight, and take notes.    Be careful about smirking, whispering to friends, using electronic devices for non-academic purposes, and rolling your eyes.  These are quick and easy ways to alienate your professors and classmates.                  

-Bring course readings and your notes, annotations, questions on them to class.   

9)  What are some of the things the Academic Advising Office can offer?

-Access to the peer tutor program

-Time management, syllabus mapping, and note-taking seminars and tutorials

-Help with critical reading and study skills questions

-Assistance on any general questions you may have

Written by Matt McCluskey, Coordinator of Academic Support