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A New, Better Way to Take Notes in Class

June 27, 2019

Although taking notes is a normal part of the academic experience, it can be hectic, complicated, and even stress-inducing for university students. To track concepts discussed in class for later review, most students take copious notes—not to mention notes from textbooks or online materials. With so much information, figuring out what to take down can be challenging. Luckily, there are some techniques you can use to take the mystery out of the process and ensure you cover all the important points from lectures and reading assignments. One particularly useful technique is the flow method, a simple yet effective note-taking strategy that minimizes stress and hassle. Learn how you can use this game-changing approach to become a better note taker below.

How the Flow Method Works

The flow method links your own thoughts and ideas to any spoken or read content. Basically, you’ll map out your ideas using bubbles (or a shape of your choice), then draw arrows to connect them to other bubbles which include concepts from lectures or reading materials. Large bubbles are used to represent big ideas or major concepts, whereas smaller bubbles are used to represent smaller ones. Yet, instead of taking down notes in the professor or author’s words, you’ll write everything in your own words, making concepts and terms easier understand and interpret. Here are some steps to help you integrate this method with your normal note-taking method:

  • Start with your normal note-taking method, but leave space between ideas or concepts so that you can create flow notes. Again, these are small concept maps where you can write your own thoughts or make connections between certain concepts.
  • Use arrows, lines or other symbols to indicate connections between concepts covered in your regular notes.
  • Incorporate the method slowly at first, taking a few flow notes every week.

Advantages of the Flow Method

Unlike other methods, the flow method doesn’t focus on taking notes for later recall or studying. Instead, it helps you learn the material from the very beginning, while you’re taking the notes. This minimizes the need to extensively go over your notes again later. With other note-taking methods, reviewing notes later is often necessary for understanding and retaining the material. Yet, putting material into your own words from the start and connecting one concept to another is a quicker and more effective way to learn. In other words, the flow method puts you in control of your own learning process. This ‘take charge’ technique can even be applied to tasks outside the classroom, such as finding great student rentals.

Disadvantages of the Flow Method

Of course, if you’re going to employ the flow method, you should know its advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest disadvantages of taking notes with the flow method is that you might miss some material, since you may not take as many notes during lectures or reading assignments. This could create gaps in key materials covered. Of course, missing important concepts or terminology lead to lower exam grades. One simple solution is to record your lectures and fill in the gaps later, using your textbook or other materials for guidance. Or, you might consider taking detailed notes during lectures and reading assignments then turn them into flow notes later. This approach can be an effective way to learn and retain materials in a way that works best for you.

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