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 I found the Law Mind Maps — and while they’re not entirely on point for my courses and are five years out of date — made me real­ise that for revi­sion, I like that tree-struc­tured rep­res­ent­a­tion of know­ledge.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