Note-taking is an excellent way of recalling important information from lectures and reading assignments. The better you are at note-taking the easier it will be to study for exams. Note-taking skills for nursing students are usually developed over time. A student may find that if they have not already developed a style for note-taking, it’s time to begin. Below are some tips to help nursing students become better note-taker.
1. Pick your method.
Some students like using pen and paper for note-taking while others prefer using a laptop. If you are using the pen and paper method you will need to decide if you like using a notebook or a binder. A notebook can help keep all your notes together while a binder enables you to add and move pages around. If you decide to use a computer, make sure you can type fast enough to keep up. Also, you will need to make sure you organize your notes so they will not get lost on your computer.
There are also different ways to format your notes. They include paragraphs, outlines, mind mapping, and diagramming. You may also receive an outline or notes from the instructor. How you format your notes will be influenced by the method you use for note-taking. For instance, if you want to use your computer and you also like diagrams, you will have to leave the room while typing and print your notes to add the additional information. Think about your system before you begin.
2. Prepare for class.
In order to prepare for the class, you should read your assigned chapters or pages prior to class. You can take better notes if you have a basic understanding of the information and an expectation of the topics that will be covered. Also, as you read and find topics you do not understand, you can ask questions before, during or after class on the information.
Note-taking should begin while reading your assignment. If your instructor provides notes, you can use them to begin your note-taking while reading and continue taking notes in class. If there is not a lot of room with the notes you are given, always have extra paper or a notebook handy.
3. Date and label notes.
May sure your notes are dated and labeled for the appropriate class. Also, number your pages to keep them in order. It may also be helpful to include the name of the textbook and the chapter in your label. This may not be needed for students who have had more than one semester. However, the first semester can be overwhelming and also some classes have more than one textbook. The labels and dates should be written before you begin note-taking.
If you are using a laptop be sure and make appropriate folders and files for your notes clearly label so you don’t have to open every folder and file to find what you are looking for. Include the date, a label, and the page number on each page of the notes in case you print the pages out to take with you.
4. Leave blank spaces.
Whether you take notes while reading or during a lecture, always leave blank spaces to add additional information. Until you are proficient in note taking, you will miss some things. This will also give you room to write additional information or draw a diagram to help better understand the content. You will also have additional space when you meet with your friends or study group to add information you may have missed.
5. Listen and write only what is necessary.
Listen and think about what the instructor is saying. Write the notes in shorthand and abbreviations that you are familiar with. Don’t try to write every single word that comes from the instructor’s mouth. If you are trying to write instead of listening you will miss big chunks of information. Listen for keywords which are repeated and long explanations. The more time an instructor spends on a topic usually means that information will be on the exam.
6. Review notes after class and often.
You should review your notes as soon as possible following your class to fill in any missing information while the lecture is still fresh in your memory. While you read over your notes ask yourself questions to help better understand the material. If there is something you do not understand in your notes and you cannot find it in your textbook, you can ask the instructor before or after your next class. Don’t wait until the day before the exam to review the notes again. It’s too late to ask questions then. Review your notes during the week, maybe at the beginning of each study session.
7. Highlighting and marking.
For those who like to highlight their textbooks, highlighting should only be used for content that needs further study. Sometimes the habit is to highlight the things you know. If you already know the information, there is no need to highlight it. It makes you feel good but it doesn’t help with your studying. You will always lack some content because you are too busy reviewing highlighted things you already know. When highlighting in class, mark the information that the instructor tells you to remember such as charts or diagrams.
A better method may be to write brief notes in the margins while reading instead of highlighting the content at this time. This is a very effective method to take notes and not slow down your reading. Marks can be made in pencils and erased after you transfer the notes to paper or your computer. Then highlight content if more study is needed or if a question needs to be asked.
8. Color Coding.
Color coding is great for your notes. However, make sure there is a method to your madness. The system you use will depend on what color coding system makes sense to you. For example, if you are studying a disease process, you could use one color for pathophysiology, another for diagnoses, and another for interventions. When color coding, it helps to make a key and use that key throughout. Don’t force a system. It will not work for you.
The best method for note-taking is the one that makes reviewing your notes easy and stress-free. If you feel your notes are not helping, you should try another method of note-taking. The method you used for high school or other classes may not work in nursing school. Note-taking can help you be more organized and successful in nursing school. There is no a one size fits all. If you don’t already have a method, try different ones until you find a method that best suits you.
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