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How to Organize Notes

Two Methods:

Organizing Notes for Class

Organizing Notes for a Meeting

Taking notes and keeping them organized is an important part of the schooling
and the work worlds. You'll need organized notes for studying for exams, for
writing essays, and for keeping track of work decisions and assignments.
Keeping them organized will not only help you with these tasks, but it will also
help you remember your material more easily.

Method 1 of 2: Organizing Notes for Class

Take good notes. One of the keys to having your notes organized, is to make
sure you're taking good notes. This means that you only write down the really

important things and don't take down every single thing your instructor says (unless it's
really funny, of course).[1]
Note down things that the instructor says more than once. Reiterating points is
a way of highlighting what the most important material is going to be. Anything
that's repeating is probably going to end up on a test or at least be important to
understanding the class.
Be selective (dont take down every single note): take down the main points of
the lecture or discussion; write down examples or hypotheticals, especially in
math and science classes.

Mix different styles of note-taking. There are lots of different ways of recording
information. You can use one style or a mix of a few. The mix is best, because

usually you can acquire more information and in different ways.[2]

Handwritten notes work best for classes that have to do with: numbers,
equations, and formulascalculus, chemistry, physics, economics, symbolic
logic, also language classes because helps you memorize/remember more
You can also record the lecture or discussion, if your instructor allows you to do
so. This is great for allowing you to go back and listen to very specific parts of
the lecture, although it can be harder to make information stick in your memory.
Make sure you collect any lecture notes and power-point slides that your
instructor makes available. These can be valuable notes for essays and exams.

Figure out which note-taking method works best for you. There are different
ways to take down notes, some of which are more effective than others at helping

you to stay organized or get organized later. You'll need to experiment to see which
methods work best for you.[3]
An effective method is the Cornell method of note-taking. On the left-hand side
of the paper mark a two and one half inch column (6.35 cm). On the right side
have a column six inches across (15.24 cm). You'll use the right-hand column to
take notes during your class or lecture. After the lecture, you'll summarize your
notes, designate keywords, and create questions about the material in the lefthand column.
A lot of people use the rough outline method. This basically means writing down

the main points of the lecture or class (you can format them as a list of bullet
points, for example). After class, write your summary of the notes in a different
colored pen, or highlight it.
Mind mapping is a more visual and creative form of taking notes. You draw your
notes, rather than writing down sentences in a linear format. Write the main
topic of the lecture or class in the center of a piece of paper. Each time the
instructor makes a new point, write those around the central topic. Draw lines to
connect different ideas. You can also draw images rather than writing words.

Store your notes in one place. If you're storing your notes all over the place it's
going to make it very difficult to organize them for exams and essays when the

time comes. Don't just write your notes down in whatever notebook you happen to have
nearby or you're never going to find those notes again.
On your computer, make sure that you have one folder for your notes from each
different class. If you put them all together it's going to be difficult to find them
It's usually easier to store any handwritten notes in a binder, because you can
add and subtract pages as needed without having to tear them out.

Keep track of your hand-outs and syllabi. A lot of people (especially freshman
university students) don't realize how important syllabi and hand-outs are going to

be. These have information you're going to need to know (like homework assignments,
the purpose of the class, and so on).
These will also usually detail information about the types of essays and
information you're going to need to know which can be useful for what kinds of
notes you take in class.
Keep all the syllabi and hand-outs for each class in the same place as your
notes so that they are easily accessible, especially when your instructor brings
up information on them in class.

Have a separate notebook or binder for each class. You really do need to keep
everything in the same place. This makes it easier for you to locate it when you

need it. If you have a distinct folder for each class you will know exactly where your
notes are.
Make sure you keep these different notebooks and binders handy. It isnt much
use to you if you dont keep putting class notes in the right place.
The more specific you are, the better. This means that for one class you might
create different folders for the different parts of the class. As an example: if you
had a film class split into four parts, you might have a different notebook for
each part of the class.
As another example: you have different folders for each section of the class (for
Latin class you have a different folder for each different part of speech [nouns,
verbs, indirect clauses, etc.]).

On a computer have separate folders for each class. If you keep all your notes
on your computer, make sure that even there you have separate spaces for your

notes. You don't want to have to back through and dig through your computer files.
Have folders in those folders for particular information. For example: you have
the main folder that's for your Ancient Astronomy class, but inside you have
specific folders for the different sections of the class, as well as for the two
essays you have to write.

As another example, you might have a folder for your research paper, a folder
for your information about gender identity politics in your gender studies class.

Create a master outline of notes for each class. This may sound like overkill,
but it can be really helpful for you to know what notes you have. You only need to

cover the most basic ideas that each group of notes has (the very main ideas) but it'll
make it easier to go back through it.
Combine lecture and reading notes into coherent whole. Figure out main ideas
and how they relate. For example: if your class is about Medieval women, the
main ideas might be about formation of self, types of writings, notions of
autonomy and gender, and so on. You might show how these ideas relate to
one another.
Make sure that you've covered the most important points, as well as the subpoints that support the main points.

Stay consistent. You don't want to have to keep trying to figure out how and
where you recorded certain information. This will make your organization more

difficult in the long run. If you keep to one way of recording notes and specific places for
each class, you'll be much more prepared than otherwise.
Giving yourself some slack on organization will mean that you wont maintain
your organization and it will be more difficult come exam time or essay time.

Method 2 of 2: Organizing Notes for a Meeting

Take effective notes during meetings. You don't want to write down every single
thing that people say, unless you're taking very specific minutes. When you're in a

meeting, you want to make sure you only have the most important things that come up.

Especially, make sure that you note down to-do items, decisions that are made,
and anything that needs to be followed up on.
Take notes on paper and copy them onto the computer later on, this will help
you remember what was said.
An effective method is the Cornell method of note-taking. On the left-hand side
of the paper mark a two and one half inch column (6.35 cm). On the right side
have a column six inches across (15.24 cm). You'll use the right-hand column to
take notes during your meeting. After the lecture, you'll summarize your notes,
designate keywords, and create questions about the material in the left-hand

Make sure youve recorded the appropriate information. There are some very
specific things you'll need to mark down, along with what was said in the meeting.

This is particularly important if you're going to have to send these notes out to everyone
at the meeting afterwards.[6]
Make sure you've noted down the date, the name of the organization, the
purpose of the meeting, and the people attending (as well as any people who
were absent who should have been there).

Summarize your notes/the meeting afterwards. You will need to synthesize the
most important material to make sure you know what needs to happen and what

was decided.
Put a different colored box around the summary so that it is easily readable.
Summarize dont transcribe. You do not need every single detail of what was
said. For example: you only need to say that it was decided to order a new type
of stationary, rather than the long discussion about the best types of stationary.

Make sure youre organizing with the most important information. You don't
want to try to organize all the different types of stationary (according to the above

example), you only want to say that a new stationary is needed and perhaps what kind
has been decided on.
The most important things you need to make sure you have are: actions,
decisions, and reference information.
Highlight the most important information or leave a margin for keywords and
most important ideas.
Avoid trying to organize during the meeting. Doing that later will help you
remember things and will make sure you dont miss important material.

Have separate folders for each meeting. You want to make sure that the
material doesnt get all bundled up together and subsequently lost in the shuffle.

Do this by making sure each meeting is separately marked, or designated.

Or you can have all the same types of meetings together. For example: if you
keep notes on your weekly meeting with your supervisor, you would keep those
separate from the notes you keep on the weekly meeting with your entire group.

Organize in chronological order. In keeping your meeting notes together you

want to make it easy to go back through and see when certain decisions were

made, who wasn't at a certain meeting and therefore needs the information, and so on.

Keep your notes in the same place. This way you won't have to be skittering
about the office after your meeting trying to find your notes. Or you won't have to

worry about getting the notes out on time to the whole group because you couldn't
locate them.

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To organize notes, have a separate notebook for each class. Don't mix
up notes from other classes.
Color code your notes. For instance, you could use a blue folder for
math class notes and a red binder for reading notes.
If you have to send out meeting notes, do so as soon as possible after
the meeting has concluded. That way the information is still fresh in the
meeting attendees minds. [7]

It's best to strike a balance between taking too many notes and taking
too few. You'll only really get a feel for this if you experiment and see
what works best for you.

Sources and Citations


Article Info

Categories: Homework Skills

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