Four Keys to Key Points of College Lectures
(Continued from 1)
Key #3. Recognize conceptual structures.
Although it may seem so in an early morning or late night class, information
is rarely tossed out in disjointed chunks. There are
usually conceptual connections, and these can be represented
visually in diagram form in your notepaper. Here are
some common examples:
a) Comparison /Contrast: Two theories, principles,
styles, people etc. are juxtaposed to show similarity
or difference. Divide your paper into two columns, with
related aspects side by side for easy visual reference.
b) Historical Development: A time line can show
progress of an idea or theory, or mark the steps in
the development of a country or institution. Use dots
on a line to indicate the key time points, and draw
arrows from them to descriptive details.
c) Supported Principles: Write down the principle,
leaving lots of room for arrows joining the principle
to anecdotes, examples and/or details that support it.
Leave extra room to add your own examples, too. These
will be useful to prepare for essay exams, where marks
are often given for the quality of support you give.
Key #4. Take time to re-organize the mess.
By the end of class, you may be discouraged to see
a confusion of squiggles, circles, boxes and underlinings
among the words on your notepaper. While guzzling your
post-lecture beverage of choice, take the opportunity
to re-organize this jumble while the information is
relatively fresh in your mind. When doing so:
Make sure principles are underlined or highlighted.
Use a different color for each one, or use alternate
underlinings (double, squiggly, etc.) to visually distinguish
them from each other. Connect supporting details to
each principle with arrows or by grouping them around
the key word.
Expand potentially forgotten abbreviations into
longer words. If you wrote down JW invented the
gzmtrnin 58, then rewrite it as Jane Woo
invented the gizmotron in 1958 while the details
are fresh. A few weeks from now, you may forget if the
J was Jane or her husband John, or if a
gzmotron was a 19th or 20th century invention.
Note where blanks exist in the information. For
example, if point #1 is clear to you but point #2 is
still mysterious, flag it some way to remind you to
ask questions during discussion time, or during the
instructor's office hours.
Make this note-taking process a habit. During exam
week, you'll thank yourself!
Kathryn Bell has 13 years of experience teaching
undergraduates at Douglas College, the University of
British Columbia, and other postsecondary institutions.