Organizing Your Course Notes

By Kaitlin Hurtado on March 11, 2017

Midterms and finals seasons are already stressful enough, and they can get even more stressful depending on how well you prepared throughout the quarter or semester. You may have gone to every lecture and taken great notes, but all your efforts will be lost if you fail to properly keep track of your notes and organize them for later use.

To be more efficient when it comes to organizing course notes, your organization should begin — or at least be kept in mind — when taking the actual notes. Both methods of note-taking have their perks and varying levels of efficiency depending on how you both take and organize notes.

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If you plan to take your notes digitally: 

If you are prone to misplacing your belongings, try taking your notes with technology rather than the classic pen and paper method. By using your laptop (or any other form of technology) you are able to have all your notes on one device and easily keep track of them.

The digital route offers a variety of options, such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office’s OneNote and Word. Microsoft allows for simple digital note-taking. Word offers endless templates to help you organize course notes, which you can save into folders created for each course needed. Word documents can be saved directly to your computer, or be saved onto your Microsoft OneDrive account, which can make the course notes accessible on any device as long as you can log into your account on Microsoft Office.

Microsoft OneNote allows users to make digital notebooks and create content within their “pages.” If you are using OneNote for taking notes, it’s easiest to make a notebook for each course and to create a different page for each lecture. With OneNote, you can also compile images from the internet into your pages/notebooks, including clippings from lecture slides if your professor supplies them.

Similar to Microsoft Word, Google Docs allows you to make a new document for every lecture and then organize each individual document into a folder dedicated to a specific course. Because Google Docs is online, you can easily share your notes with classmates rather than dealing with blurry pictures or trusting them with the physical copy of your course notes.

You can also collaborate in note taking by taking course notes in a shared document with classmates, ensuring that you have all the information you will need for further studying. All of the notes taken and saved onto Google Docs can be taken anywhere as long as you have a technological device with access to the internet or the Google Docs app as they are stored under your account and readily available so long as you are logged in on the device.

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If you plan to take handwritten notes: 

Taking handwritten notes is a hassle if your course notes consist of a pile of loose-leaf papers, some crumpled from being pushed to the bottom of your book bag and forgotten until exams roll around. To avoid the hassle of loose-leaf papers, try to dedicate a notebook for each course you are taking. A single subject notebook (around 100 pages) will work for a single course but can change depending on how many notes you are taking for the course. With single subject notebooks, you don’t have to lug around extra notes for classes you don’t have that day and change your notebooks out when they are needed or unneeded.

However, even single subject notebooks can be a hassle if you accidentally mistake one for the other and take the wrong one to class or a study session. Instead of several single subject notebooks, there are multiple-subject notebooks that can save the hassle of mixing up notebooks or leaving one behind — you can have all of your course notes with you in a single notebook.

Notebooks don’t work for everyone, however, because with the limited amount of paper, students will either run out of paper for taking notes or have an excess amount of paper left over. Instead of starting another notebook, being wasteful, or having both loose-leaf papers and a notebook after your notebook runs out of space for note-taking, commit to taking notes on loose-leaf papers. You won’t need to worry about a defined amount of pages you have for any lecture or course and have multiple options in how you can organize the loose-leaf papers. Binders allow for convenient storage of loose-leaf handwritten notes — you can easily take out any notes as you please and rearrange notes hassle-free.

If you prefer taking handwritten notes, you can easily transfer them digitally by scanning a copy of your notes and creating a digital image on your laptop. You can have both a physical copy and digital copy, not having to worry about losing track of your course notes and having options when it comes to studying for your exams.

By Kaitlin Hurtado

Uloop Writer
Hello! I'm Kaitlin, a second year Literary Journalism major at UC Irvine. I'm a writer on Uloop's national team and a campus editor for UCI.

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