How I now take notes while studying

The process of trying to capture what I’m learning is a process that is still under a degree of trial and error, here. When I was at school and last studying at university level, it just kind of went in. I didn’t care about the process. Now, a few Open University courses later of varying difficulty, I find that I need to pay some attention to the techniques of studying, in order to find ones that suit me best.Last year, on my first proper law course, I summarised everything I was reading from the course manuals and the set texts into notebooks, longhand. My reasoning behind this was that by doing this, it would set it in my memory. From there, I re-summarised into a revision notebook, which I read and re-read up to the time of the exam.

This process didn’t work. I spent far too long writing, and not nearly enough time understanding to a level that I could output the subtleties and complexities during an exam — a situation in which I write slowly at the best of times. So during my current course (W223: Company Law and Practice) and my upcoming course (W201: Law: the individual and the state). So, I’ve been thinking about ways to improve both the why, and the of what I take notes.

I came to this from working backwards. I found the Law Mind Maps — and while they’re not entirely on point for my courses and are five years out of date — made me realise that for revision, I like that tree-structured representation of knowledge. From these, I realised that this was the structure from which I wanted to revise. Therefore, I needed to get there from the printed manuals.

And, after a discussion with my friend Lee Griffiths, I realised where I was going wrong. I was treating the OU manuals as if I was listening to a lecture — where you need to scribble notes as fast as you can. But that’s simply not true. I have that information, and it’s not going to go away. Rather than try summarise it in my notes, I need to use notes to supplement it — at least, at the time of studying, and first pass afterward.

So my study procedure now is to read through the manuals and the texts with a handful of fluorescent markers, highlighting the important points as I read thorough. In parallel, I have a notebook open — not to transcribe, but to capture things that occur to me, and in which to draw patterns, connections and to make notes. I need to be making the notes with a view to future mind-mapping – to draw a easily-rememberable series of diagrams from which I hope to revise.

I’m not there yet, though. This is Study, Revision 2. No doubt there will be more revisions, both minor and major. Hopefully this is a closer fit than last year’s attempt, though.