Office of Student Academic Services


TIPS: Study Skills and Strategies

How to Set Up a Notebook

Reading Notes
Set aside a portion of the notebook for your comments on the texts. This should include questions for the professor, specialized vocabulary words and definitions, and relating an idea in this text to something the professor mentioned in class or to another text you have read.

For texts that will be used as sources for a paper, you first need to choose any quotes that seem important to you (ex., Marx says that man needs to "look at his image in a world he has created" and if he cannot relate to the work he produces, he loses his "species-life" pp.10-11). Then you will want to stop after you have read the article, the chapter, or the assignment for the next class, and write out 1-2 sentences that sum up the author's thesis (ex., Marx suggests that labour cannot define a worker's "essence" or identity. An identity must include nature and other people, but labour severs this connection --pp.7-11).

A more visual way of keeping quotes and comments together is to use a t-chart. On the left side, write in the author's ideas, staying with quotes rather than paraphrase as much as you can. (This will help you write papers or essay exams later, because you will have the author's voice in mind). On the right side, write in what you believe this means; for ex.:

"an animal is immediately
one with his vital activity"(p.10)
because he and it
are the same!!! unlike workers…

Notes from a Discussion Class
If your class is a fast-moving discussion of topics that have come up in the readings, and appears to have no organization, you must try to give each class session a structure, because you can be pretty sure that the professor has a structure in mind. For example, from a remark by a classmate about Marx, "as workers produce more, they are more distant from the objects they produce" and then someone else says "private property is the root cause … private property is an indicator of upper-class status." You write these down. After class, you group these remarks into a category "Alienation and Class" and write that into the margin, so that you can find it later. You do the same for each set of jottings, and then your notes can help you later in the term.

Notes from a Lecture Class
Many professors who teach lecture classes have additional notes on the web; some professors place entire lectures on Web CT. When this happens, your notes from class become a series of questions or remarks to yourself (ex., "names of 3 microtubules that form mitotic spindle?" or "will be on exam" or emphatic points: "replication of genomes and segregation of genomes to daughter cells are at the heart of what we define as life"). After class, you find the posted notes and copy them, adding in notes of your own.

If the lecture is not placed on the web, then you need to prepare for class by reading the texts as assigned and taking notes on the readings (as above). When you get to class, sit up front, have a spare pen or pencil and stay alert. Write down the main points and fill in details later, right after class (ex., "the narrow band of wavelengths visible to the human eye extends from the shorter waves of blue-violet to the longer waves of red light" –text also p. 38). (You added in where this is in the text—because that way, you know where there is more information, and you know that something that is considered both in the text and the notes is likely to come up on tests and quizzes).