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 I found the Law Mind Maps — and while they’re not entire­ly on point for my cours­es and are five years out of date — made me realise that for revi­sion, I like that tree-struc­tured rep­re­sen­ta­tion of knowl­edge.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.

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