Spring 2017 Getting Started

ID #2481

Should I take notes on the reading assignments?

This is a fantastic question, and the answer may surprise you. No, I do not feel that taking notes on the readings--at least the first time you go through them--is an efficient use of your time. Let's think about the progression of understanding a topic. First, you see the reading assignment and you read those sections or pages. This is the first time you may have seen this material, so it is unlikely to be familiar to you, but you're doing this to get an idea of what we'll be talking about in class. Since this is before class, you don't need to become an expert on the subject (yet), that's what happens later. So taking notes is spending time trying to master a subject when you don't yet know what level you will be responsible for. You could be taking too many notes, or too few, so it's not only ok, it's advisable to just do the readings and then answer the pre-class questions that follow.

Then, when you come to class or watch screencasts, when you hear words or concepts that were in the readings, it's not the first time you've heard that before, and you're building familiarity. This is the difference between a student in class saying "What was that word you used?" and thinking "Oh, *that's* what that meant in the book!"
It is appropriate to take notes during class, especially to note things that are said that are still unclear. Then, after class as you review your notes, if you don't understand a concept or possibly don't even understand a note you wrote, go back to the readings again. Now the paragraphs, tables and figures should make much more sense, because it's the third or fourth time you've thought about this material. Taking some notes on what you are reading might be beneficial at this point, but definitely not in your best interest the first time you read it.

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