Note Taking in Economics

Our single, most important top tip is to never underestimate the importance of note taking.

Let’s start at the end. Your exams are looming, you have 3 weeks of solid revision ahead of you and where does it begin? Your notes. What will you read furiously the night before the exam? Your notes. And in between, what will you constantly refer back to? Your notes. Point made.

Thinking you will remember the very important point that was made in a lecture is fine for the first day, or even week, but after 32 weeks of lecturing can you really remember what was said 22 minutes into your fourth macro lecture? The chances are that you won’t but the skill of note taking is not to write down all that is being said – you won’t be able to absorb anything if you do – but to pick the important points.

Photo by Churl on Flickr

Four Key Points

  • Download and print your lecture slides

If you can print the slides before the lecture, do. Also, read them before you go to the lecture – just ten minutes on the bus will make them familiar and stop you from repeating a point.

  • Your notes are only going to be read by you

So, providing you can read them, don’t worry too much about what they look like. Colours and underlining etc. can be helpful when it comes to revision but you can always re-write your notes when you get home (which also happens to embed what you have already learnt).

  • A graph or an image will emphasise the point

Note taking is not solely dependent on words, so use graphs or images if they help emphasise the point. Mind maps are also great; they allow you to follow your thought ‘train’ as well as link different aspects to others. But again, don’t spend hours on making it look lovely.

  • Don’t try to write down everything

For example, if you understand opportunity cost, don’t write down the four different examples that you may be given. Instead, relax and listen. If you can write a phrase instead of a sentence, write a phrase. If you can write a word instead of a phrase, write a word.

A few further top tips:

  • Only you have to read your notes so use any sort of shorthand you understand.
  • Store your notes in a logical way. Combining all of them into a file isn’t very clever. Ideally, separated into each module and in a chronological order – it makes them a lot easier to find!

Shorthand ideas

  • Draw a pair of eyes for something you must look into later
  • Txt spk cn also B useful. Just make sure you can understand it and don’t use it in an essay.
  • + instead of and, = for equals, x for no, √ for yes, e.g. for example etc.

York University, Toronto has a comprehensive booklet on guidance and tips on taking notes.