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Editing Lecture Notes

There are several good reasons for organizing and reviewing your notes as soon as possible after the lecture. While the lecture is still fresh in your mind, you can fill in facts and examples from memory that you did not have time to write down during the lecture. More over, you can recall what parts of the lecture were unclear to you so that you can consult the lecturer, the graduate assistant, a classmate, your text, or additional readings for further information.

Immediately reviewing notes will result in better retention than reviewing after a longer period of time. Unless a student reviews within 24 hours after the lecture, or at least before the next, retention will drop and result in the student relearning the information rather than reviewing it.

A method of annotation is usually preferable to recopying notes. The following suggestions for annotating may be helpful:

  • Underline key statements or important concepts.
  • Use asterisks or other signal marks to indicate importance.
  • Use margins or blank pages for coordinating notes with the text (i.e. indicating pages in the text that correspond with notes).
  • Use a key and a summary.

Using a Key and a Summary

Use one of the margins on your paper to keep a key for important names, formulas, dates, concepts, and the like. This forces you to anticipate questions of an objective nature and provides specific facts that you need to develop essays.

Use the other margin to write a short summary of the main topics on the page and to relate the contents of the page to the whole lecture or to the lecture of the day before. Condensing the notes in this way not only helps you to learn them, but also prepares you for the kind of thinking required on essay exams and many so-called "objective" exams.