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What type of note taker are you?

Three students presented their notes, and explained their note taking method. An expert then gave us the ups and downs of each method

What does your note taking method say about you? Does it reflect your approach to learning and possible even your personality?

Danish-language university news site asked three students whose styles are representive of common note taking methods and tried to get an expert to interpret their study style and study personality. We’ll be the first to admit, they didn’t get that far in terms of interpretation of personality, but found out the advantages and disadvantages of three distinct note-taking styles.

Method 1 – Crazy Fingers, or ‘trying to write everything’

Katrine’s notes. Yes! They are actually her ‘notes’.

Your note taking style consists of frantically writing down almost everything that’s said in a lecture, yet somehow it comes out extremely organized with titles, subheadings and bulletpoints all written in proper cursive or bold text.

At least that’s how it looks at first glance to the uninitiated. If someone takes a closer look however, they realise that despite the outward appearence of organization, many of the notes are a bundle of half written sentences and streams of consciousness.

People are either impressed by your crazy fingers typing away at light speed or utterly annoyed at your loud, incessant typing on the keyboard.

Hierarchies of points and concepts

“I have to force myself to take notes during lectures. I think I’ve always had a need to keep writing in order to maintain my concentration,” says Katrine, a student of Spanish at the University of Copenhagen.

Katrine’s style is what researcher Hans Henrik Knoop, Danish School of Education at Aarhus University calls a typical outline method.

“It’s a hierarchical method with bullet points where you build hierarchies of points and concepts, that can be built upon with new headings, subheadings as well as extra additions and changes”, he explains.

Method 2 – The Networker

Johannes’ notes. ‘Mental networks’.
At times your notes consist of nothing more than a few keywords placed in large circles with interconnecting arrows from a brainstorming session, while at at other times your notes consist of complicated tables and graphs.

Like Johannes, a student of art history at the University of Copenhagen, you prefer the use of notebooks or a piece of paper. You forego the typing out of notes on a computer. If this is you, then you are a ‘networker’. You’re an abstract thinker that uses your notes to interconnect points or ideas and create mental networks to organize information.

Whatever piques your interest

“The use of arrows is a defining feature of the way I take notes”, Johannes says, and explains that he uses the arrows because the information given in lectures isn’t always chronological.

“This style of note taking is sometimes referred to as the the flow method”, explains Hans Henrik Knoop of the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. “It’s a style that is very personal and very individually based.”

“There isn’t a lot more to it than the fact that the person writes down what piques his interest. Moreover the person uses illustrations and arrows to interconnect his ideas,” he says.

Method 3 – Organized Chaos

Karoline’s notes: ‘Getting smarter is more important than getting a good grade’
You assemble all of your notes from different subjects, classes and types of lectures in one big notebook, and use color coded sticky notes to differentiate between them.

“I probably have a photographic memory,” Karoline says, describing that her preferred method of learning is visual,” explains Karoline, a student of political science and history.

“I remember things a lot better when the lectures include power point presentations with pictures of the different theorists”.

This method of organized chaos probably suits people who much prefer to actively engage in the learning proces rather than sitting and listening.

“I think my notes are designed for someone would rather learn by talking or thinking, then writing”, says Karoline. “Someone who believes that getting smarter is more important than getting a good grade.”

Handwritten notes? Maybe, maybe not

“The benefit of using hand written notes is that it can enhance the learning experience by giving the student the sense that they are in close contact with what is being taught than if you use a computer”, says Hans Henrik Knoop.

“Old fashioned note taking by hand, and using stickers, is welll, old fashioned,” says Hans Henrik Knoop. It is probably also far less efficient than if you do the notes in the same way, but electronically, he believes.

“Electronic notes are searchable, flexible, and can be moved around and developed,” he says.

Difference in learning styles

So what do the notes actually say about the students thoughts and learning processes?

It depends on who you ask, and is highly controversial, according to Hans Henrik Knoop, who will not evaluate the three note types from a learning theoretical framework.

“The only thing all theorists agree on is that there “are good learning strategies, and that they vary from person to person,” he says.

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