Note Taking in Graduate School

Note Taking in Graduate School

By Heather Verani

Welcome back graduate students! I hope the first few weeks of the semester have treated you well. Before I get into the content of this blog post, I would like to quickly introduce myself. My name is Heather, and this is my first semester in grad school here at Millersville. I recently graduated last spring from MU, and am excited to be back this semester as a GA for Dr. Pfannenstiel. Transitioning from an undergrad to a graduate student has been an adjustment, but one thing that has remained is the need for good note taking. In most of my undergrad classes, the main style of note taking corresponded to the typical class format by copying notes from power point slides. However, English graduate courses are different, in the sense that many are based on discussions and readings rather than slides and lectures. While researching different methods of note taking, I have found a few that may be beneficial to try throughout the semester.

The first type of note taking is also the most common, as it can easily be translated to both electronic and more traditional forms of taking notes. Using the outlining method to take notes allows for organization of information where knowledge that has a relation can be grouped together. Outlining your notes also allows for a visual presentation that is easy to understand and follow, so reviewing any previous information is easily accessible. However, it may be hard to create this outline while simultaneously trying to listen to your professor or classmates. To avoid losing bits and pieces of information, exploring another method of note taking may be more beneficial.

The charting method is more friendly for discussion-based information, as you can create different categories along the way and then chart them using the appropriate headings that help to group all the information together. Charting your notes can also easily translate to handwritten or typed notes, and can quickly be created or expanded upon if more categories need to be added. If creating a chart for your notes sounds appealing but you don’t like the conformity or layout of the chart method, mapping out your notes may be a better option. The mapping method of note taking allows for a more flexible and creative approach to organizing information. Traditionally, the map has a center point with multiple branches of information that relate to that main point. You can even customize your map by labelling the branches with different colors to differentiate the various topics. Although very fluid in its approach to note taking, this method could possibly become too complex with each of the various branches and sub-branches, and the map could become more overwhelming than helpful.

If structure is what you need in your notes, than the Cornell method may be perfect for you. The systematic organization of information is one that has been taught to many throughout their academic career. The format of this is simple to follow; leave a 2-inch margin on the left side (this is known as the cue column) and a six-inch area on the right to take notes. Also make sure to include a 2-inch section at the bottom of the page known as the summary section. During class time, write main lecture notes in short, concise sentences or by using abbreviations. After class, in the cue column, you would write any main ideas, questions, or diagrams you have from the notes. The summary column is used for the same purpose, except it would only be for main idea or to be used as a quick reference area. The main benefit of taking notes in this way is the organization and reflection that it provides within its structure. If creating this seems to be too time consuming, there are many templates online that could be used in place of handwritten notes. However, the need to put everything in a certain place may cause one to focus more on the notes rather than the information while in class.

While researching each of these methods of note taking, it was interesting to learn both the pros and cons of using them in class. Each method has their own benefits, and I hope by reading this blog post you were able to find a way of note taking that is best for you. I hope you all have a great semester ahead, and make sure to look out for more blog posts throughout the fall!



“Common Note-Taking Methods.” Common Note-Taking Methods | University of Tennessee at Chattanooga,