Happy Studying! Note-Taking Tips from a Virtual Mentor

Photo: Virtual Mentor Anna Chesnokova with Butch the Cougar
Virtual Mentor Anna Chesnokova
with Butch the Cougar

My name is Anna Chesnokova and I have been a Virtual Mentor at WSU Global for more than five years. Previously, I was a senator at WSU Global student government while I was getting my BA in Business Administration: Management and Operations (Magna cum laude).

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of WSU and helping my fellow students. Thus, once I graduated from WSU, I decided to stay here as Virtual Mentor and help you succeed in the online learning environment. Between work and Virtual Mentoring, I try to find some time for my hobbies: scrapbooking, drawing, reading books, experimenting in the kitchen and spending time outside.

Today, I wanted to share with you some reading and note-taking strategies that helped me and many other students be more successful in online classes. Being able to take better notes will help you to save time when preparing for exams and better understand and retain new information in school, work and other situations.

Step 1 – Skim the text. This will allow you to note the structure of the text, volume and key points.

Step 2 – Read a section of the text. Go back to the beginning. Read a section and then take notes. You can use one of these methods:

  • Mind Mapping

    You might already be familiar with this method. Draw a circle right in the center of a blank page, indicating the main concept/topic that will be discussed. Then, with the help of lines going in different directions, draw and fill in new circles indicating subtopics – key words and ideas associated with them. You can create as many circles as desired and link them with multiple lines to show connection. This method will allow you to add more notes later on and form a good connection between ideas and concepts.

  • Dynamic Outline

    Using colored pens/pencils and highlighters, draw diagrams using arrows, circles, boxes, highlighting main points, supporting ideas, questions, keywords, etc. in your notes. In a way, you will be taking the classic outline one step further, combining it with mind mapping. This will help you focus on the main points while not losing track of supporting information. If you are a visual person, remembering the material will become much easier and taking notes will be much more fun. 

  • Cornell Method

    Divide a blank page into two columns with left column narrower than the right. While reading, write down important information as you would normally do on the right side. Then fill in the left column – select the most important ideas, names, dates, formulate questions and so on. 

    Occasionally, cover up the right column and try to remember what you wrote. If desired, leave some space at the bottom of the page and briefly summarize your notes. This method will help to quickly find necessary information while studying for exams. In addition, in the process of filling in the left column, you will reflect on new material and can look up anything that you need more clarification on. 

Step 3 – Think about what you read. Spend some time to think about what you read. This is a chance to look at the big picture and connect all the concepts and ideas you have just covered in your notes. Draw conclusions and ask yourself if there is anything that you don’t understand and need to follow up on.

Finally, keep these points in mind while writing your notes:

  • Make sure to label your notes and maybe add a lesson topic, so you can find necessary information. 
  • Do not copy text directly from the textbook. Write in your own words and it will help you to reflect on the material you just read. 
  • Break up your notes in short paragraphs and lists. Write short sentences and phrases and highlight keywords, headings and subheadings. 
  • Read a small section and take notes before continuing to read. This will ensure that you will not feel overwhelmed with information or miss anything. 
  • Your notes will be useless if you have done them on “autopilot” without understanding the content. 

Keep up the hard work and diligent study, I promise that it will pay off for you when you proudly hold your diploma in your hand. And if you ever need help along the way, your Virtual Mentors are always here to assist. Happy studying!