Take Note(s)

March 23, 2015
Aliisa Lee

I ended last post about classes with a little illustration of studious note-taking. 

taking notes

Just in case you are wondering, 

oh hey

I not only go to class, I pay attention and take good notes! In this post, let me give you some thoughts on my experiences with notes. 

I definitely can't speak to all classes and disciplines, but hopefully this will give you one perspective. Since notes really depend on class size:

  • For smaller seminars and precepts, I usually get a feel for what is appropriate, depending on the professor and the type of information the seminar revolves around. 
  • If it's a discussion-heavy class or precept, taking extensive notes may not even be necessary! It might just be better to be fully engaged in the discussion.
  • For larger lecture classes, it's usually pretty clear that I shouldn't be engaged in conversation. Actually, I should probably be listening and trying to retain what the professor is saying, and taking notes helps this!

There are a couple of mediums for note-taking, the first being good old

pen and paper

Actually, I usually prefer pencils, mostly because mistakes and I are old friends.


If I can record enough information by hand, I'll cut out the distraction of a laptop and go with pencil and paper. Especially in courses where I don't need every detail, handwritten notes often help me choose to record only the most crucial or interesting bits of information. I find my English classes usually fall in this pen and paper category.

huck finn
Of course, cutting out distractions does not mean there are no doodles. I went through a few of my notebooks and discovered 

back of the head
I am particularly fond of drawing the backs of people's heads. 

little guy
Also this guy showed up a couple times. I'm not entirely sure from where, but I think I like him. 

If I'm in a class that goes quickly, or one that I know it is helpful to have more extensive notes, I bust out my


​In most of my larger lecture classes so far, the professors have been just fine with students using computers. The amazing Professor Nicole Shelton, who taught my PSY 252: "Social Psychology" course, once described her view in front of the McCosh 50 lecture hall as looking over a sea of glowing, white apples.


I've sat next to more than a few Facebookers and online-shoppers, and was introduced to Buzzfeed by creeping on a neighbor in my fall freshman seminar. My friend Alissa even reported once seeing a girl in front of her reading entries on this "Speaking Of Princeton" blog. I'm not going to lie; it is easy to get distracted with a laptop. Professors who allow them do request you use them solely for taking notes though, so it's respectful to everyone to use them for focused note-taking.

Actually, in many cases you shouldn't need to frantically write down everything. Many instructors will put their lecture slides up on Blackboard, the course management system Princeton uses as an online hub for things like class material and precept posting 

Art history

If you miss something, or want to revisit an image from lecture, you can find the presentation after class! Not all courses have this option, though. As Professor Bendixen, my professor for "Science Fiction", said paradoxically on the first day of class, "I don't use audio/visual aids; I don't believe in technology." It is an excellent course. 

By the way, taking notes by laptop became infinitely more satisfying when I discovered the note-taking option in Word. It (kind of) makes you feel like you are taking notes on paper, not a screen! And then it outdoes real life by letting you change your workspace with the click of a button:


For example, 




SO! Those are the main methods of taking notes: using paper or using your laptop.

However, I thought I should mention I have seen some people simply using their minds.


I've seen them here and there; under the voice of a lecturer, as the hall rustles with the clattering of keys and the scratching of pencils, they sit calmly. They are unrestrained by papers or power cords. They are pure. Are they that confident in their mental powers? Do they just not care? They just... listen. 

I am definitely not one of those people, so props to them! Really, it comes down to the nature of the class and how you learn and listen best. Personally, I love writing and recording things, plus it also just anchors my focus to have something visual in front of me. Also, I think it's worth mentioning this TIME article.




I can say these were good for my information retention.

As this bearded guy is probably thinking,