This guide includes the following pages: Techniques (this page), Considerations for Note-Taking Software, Citation Software, How-to Videos, and Contact & Yale Support.
On this first page, you will find information about how to take notes, read effectively, and manage your time, including:
This guide also has a corresponding zine to help you find your specific note-taking needs. Download the zine here:
Define your purpose
Notes are meant to be used. Are you taking notes for comprehension, an exam, to generate ideas...?
The practice of (physical) note taking promotes metacognition, while spending 5 minutes with your notes on the same day provides immediate review to enhance learning.
General reading and note-taking strategy: Don't read every word without a purpose. Instead, make informed decisions about what to read:
1) skim the abstract, and if it still looks good...
2) skim the introduction and conclusion ONLY, and if it still looks good...
3) take a high level view of the article - find relevant sections (method, analysis, etc.) and skim those, and if it still looks good...
4) THEN read the whole article
Mark up the text
Highlighting every word isn't effective and does not promote use or information recall. Instead, make yourself a key to identify key texts to come back to later or to connect to your written notes.
For instance, using the BEAM method, classify phrases / paragraphs according to B (background), E (evidence), A (argument), or M (method)
Some apps for marking up PDFs include:
More about the Cornell Note-taking system: Learn the format of the Cornell Notes system, including videos about the benefits of note-taking. Public access through Canvas.
Within the Pomodoro Technique, the idea is to break down a project into specific units of time, spaced by short breaks.
Decide the task
Set your timer
Work on the task
Put a checkmark on a piece of paper
Take a small break and set the timer again
After you do four cycles, you can take a longer break.
With a notes system in place that works for you, whether on its on paper or online, you will eventually start creating digital files. Create a meaningful digital file system that can hold up to years of research.
For instance, organize your files into User: Documents > Semester_YEAR > Course Name or Project.
Consider organizing article PDFs with Zotero (see tab Citation (and Note Taking) Software using collections, folders, and file attachments.
Things that likely won't work over time:
Create a Custom Knowledge Base (advanced)
If you're interested in a fluid file structure, you might be interested in the Zettelkasten Method and/or the application Obsidian. Note that these both have a steep learning curve. If you have defined your purpose as needing a complex, custom knowledge base over time - they might be worth exploring.
See the How-To Videos tab for more information and sample applications.