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MLA Full: "Taking Notes: Crash Course Study Skills #1." YouTube, uploaded by CrashCourse, 8 August 2017,
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The first step in honing your new study skills is to take better notes. This week Thomas will tell you everything you need to know to come to class prepared and find a note-taking system that will help you retain and review like a champ.

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  Introduction (0:00)

Hi, I'm Thomas Frank, this is Crash Course Study Skills, and today we're going to look at how to take great notes. And you're probably going to want to write that down.

[Theme music]

 Pen vs. Laptop (0:16)

Why focus on your notes? Well, simply put, when it comes to learning and retaining information, output is just as important as input. When you're first learning a fact or a concept, you're intaking new information. But to retain that information for a long time, you need to store it in a place that you can easily access later on, and you need to put it in your own words.

Now, before we talk about specific note-taking systems, what information you should actually record in your notes, and whether or not it's helpful to blend them up and drink them like a milkshake, let's start with what's going to set you up for success in the first place: showing up to class prepared with the right tools.

There are three routes you can go when selecting those tools: paper, computer, or arm. What's the best option? Well, unless you're that guy from Memento, we can probably narrow it down to either paper or computer. Between those two, there's been a debate going on for years, but we do have some recent scientific evidence that we can turn to for some hard answers.

According to a study done at Princeton University in 2014, students who took notes on a 15-minute lecture using a laptop wrote an average of 310 words, while those who wrote on paper only averaged 173. So it seems that typing your notes definitely does give you a speed advantage. The downside to becoming the metaphorical Speed Racer of note-taking, though, was that these same students were able to recall less information when tested later on.

So why does this happen? Well, the root of the problem lies in the fact that the computer note-takers were much more likely to record what was being presented word-for-word. Let's go to the Thought Bubble.

When you're paying attention to a lecture, there are two aspects of the information being presented. Since complex information is communicated through language, be it written or spoken, we get both the syntax, like the letters and sounds that make up the words, as well as the meaning.

When you're typing out your notes, the speed advantage enables you to record a much more complete version of what your teacher is saying. However, your working memory - the part of your memory that deals with the information you're currently intaking - can only deal with so much at a time.

Current cognitive science research puts that amount at around four "chunks" of information, which we'll talk about in another video. The combination of that recording speed advantage and your built-in mental processing limit can lead you to devote more mental resources to the syntax of the message -  those pesky letters and sounds - and less to the actual meaning. As a result, you learn less in class, and you create more work for yourself later on.

Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, does this mean that a pen and paper always beats your laptop? Well, not necessarily; now that you know that the speed increase you get through typing has a downside, you can just resolve to type less and pay more attention to the meaning of the message while you're in class. Still, paper does have an implicit advantage, as it requires less self-control. Your long-hand writing speed automatically limits how much you pay attention to the syntax, and - as a bonus - you don't have to worry about being tempted to go on Facebook in the middle of class either. 

Regardless of what tool you decide to choose, though, make sure you come into class well prepared. If you're using paper, have a well organized notebook with plenty of blank space, as well as a good quality pen that you enjoy writing with. And if you decide that a computer fits your style better, find a good note-taking app like Evernote or OneNote or Dropbox Paper or any other that fits your fancy.

You should also close out of any apps or websites that aren't relevant to the lecture - that'll help you stay focused, though you still might have to work to ignore that guy in front of you who's taking a Buzzfeed quiz to figure out his Hogwarts house. I'm a Ravenclaw, by the way - though that's just what a Slytherin would say, isn't it?

  What to Write Down (3:21)

Anyway, now that you're prepared and equipped with the right tools, what should you be recording with them? After all, you can't just record everything. As the famous mathematician Eric Temple Bell noted, "The map is not the thing mapped." Just like a map is only useful only if it summarized and simplifies what it represents, your notes are a useful review tool only when there's high signal-to-noise ratio. That means they've got to be packed with the information you need to know for tests and later application, and devoid of anything that doesn't matter. 

It's a bit hard to make specific recommendations here, since there are so many different subjects and classes in which you'll need your note-taking skills; however, we can put forth some general guidelines that will point in the right direction.

First and foremost, gauge each class you're taking early on. Carefully look at the syllabus, pay attention to any study guides or review materials you can get your hands on, and make mental notes about different types of questions you see on early quizzes and tests. Additionally, any time you hear your professor say something like, "This is important, pay attention," in a lecture, that's a cue to take extra-careful notes. A lot of my friends in school thought it was a cue to take a nap, but they were wrong.

Beyond that, whether you're sitting in class or going through a reading assignment in your textbook, you'll want to pay special attention to things like: big ideas - you know, summaries, overview, or conclusions, bullet lists - like this one - terms and definitions, and examples. And examples are doubly important, especially in classes where you have to apply concepts and formulas to problems, like in math or physics. You can probably remember times when an example presented in class made perfect sense, but then a later homework problem using the same exact concept completely stumped you.

There's a big difference between being able to follow along while someone else solves a problem and having the chops to solve it on your own. But by recording every detail of the examples you see in class - as well as making side notes about why the concepts being used work - you'll have a lot more ammunition to work with while you're tackling those homework problems. 

  Note Taking Systems (5:06)

Now that we've covered the elements of good, useful notes, let's get into the specifics of how to take them. Now there are plenty of note-taking systems out there, with their own pros and cons, but with this video, we're going to focus on three: the Outline method, the Cornell method, and the Mind-Mapping method.

The Outline method is probably the simplest one of them all, and it's likely the one you're most familiar with. To use it, you just record the details of the lecture or book you're reading in a bullet list. Each main point will be a top-level bullet, and underneath it you'll indent further and further as you add more details and specifics. The syllabus I wrote for this very Crash Course series is a good examples of outline-style notes. Each video's outline has several different top-level bullets, followed by several levels of detail. And yes, this is my actual outline.

Now, the Outline method is great for creating well-organized notes, but because it's so rigid, you can easily end up with a ton of notes that all look the same. So to prevent that from happening, use formatting  tricks to make important details stand out when you're reviewing them later on. For example, in these notes I took during an information systems class, you can see that I've got several details written down underneath "Prototyping." All of them were important enough to write down, but since the professor specifically mentioned that quick development and low cost were the most important aspect of prototyping, I made sure to bold that line. 

Next, we're going to go over the Cornell method.  Developed by the Cornell University professor Walter Pauk back in the 1950's and popularized by his book How to Study in College, the Cornell method is a time-tested system that involves dividing your paper (or a table in your note-taking app) into three distinct sections: the Cue Column, the Notes Column, and the Summary Column. During a lecture, take your actual notes in the aptly-named Notes Column. Yeah - you'll learn that there's not a whole lot of misdirection when it comes to Study Skills.

Anyway, here you can use any method you want, be it the standard outline method we just talked about or something more flexible. At the same time, when you think of questions that weren't answered - or that would be great prompts for later review - write them down in the Cue Column. These questions will come in handy when you're going through your notes in the future, as they'll point you tp the most important information and help you frame your thinking.

The Summary Area will remain empty until the lecture is over. Once that time comes, take two or three minutes to briefly look over the notes you took and the questions you wrote down, and then write a 1-2 sentences summary of the biggest ideas that were covered. This serves as an initial review, which helps us to consolidate everything that was presented up here and to solidify your understanding while everything is still fresh in your mind. 

If neither of these two methods seems like the right fit for you, you might like the final method we're going to cover, which is Mind Mapping. Mind maps are diagrams that visually represent the relationships between individual concepts and facts. Like outline-style maps, they're very hierarchical - but that's where the similarities end. Outline-style notes are linear and read much like normal text, while mind maps look more like trees or spiderwebs.

To create a mind map, you write the main concept smack-dab in the middle of the page, and then branch out from there to flesh out the details. This method works really well on paper, but there are also apps like Coggle which will let you create mind maps on your computer as well.

So what's the best method? Well, that's up for you to decide. I recommend trying each one out, and making your own tweaks as you go along. Also remember that not every class with work best with the exact same method. Your history notes are probably going to look pretty different from your math notes. 

  Review and Credits (8:02)

So that's where we're going to wrap this video up.

At this point, you should know how to come to class prepared to take good notes, what to focus on during the lecture, and what method to use. In a future video, we'll follow up on these points with some tips on how you can review those notes during your study sessions - but for now, just go take some good notes! Thanks for watching, and I'll see you next time.

Crash Course Study Skills is filmed in the Dr. Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio in Missoula, MT, and it's made with the help of all of these nice people. If you'd like to help keep Crash Course free for everyone, forever, you can support the series on Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the content you love. Thanks so much for your support.

[Theme music]