The 5 R's of Note Taking
Professor Walter Pauk of the Study Center at Cornell University once described five essential aspects of note taking, which he referred to as the five R's. They are important enough to mention here:
Get down all the main ideas and facts.
To reduce is to summarize. Pick out the key terms and concepts. You can make from your notes what some students call "cram sheets." These are lists, usually in outline form, that give you the bare bones of a course. You can use them as cues for reciting the details of what you have learned. On each page of notes you take, allow room to write down such cues.
The advice above gives you an important principle. Recite to yourself. Don't assume you know something just because you've read and understood it. You have to tell someone else — your instructor — about what you have learned. So recite. In your own words.
Ideas from your courses are meant to be thought about. Even though you know that, you may not practice it. It's easy to fall into just giving back the information you have learned. Don't do that. Then too, if you reflect about what you are learning, you won't be surprised when ideas turn up on examinations in an unexpected form.
The most important part of the art of studying is knowing when, how, and what to review. But however you do it, reviewing is essential. Even the accomplished performer — the pianist or the actor — knows that a review, no matter how well he or she may know the material, is essential to a professional performance.
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Source: Deese, J., & Deese, E. K., How to Study and Other Skills for Success in College (New York, McGraw-Hill, Inc.: 1994).