5 Ways to make lecture notes more readable

Once you’ve spent many hours (or what seems like many hours) in lectures copying down words of wisdom flowing forth from the mouth of your lecturer, it seems a shame for them to be completely unreadable when you later go to review your notes. Here are five ways to make your notes (not just for lectures) more readable. These are written mostly for those of us who handwrite but the fundamentals are useful for computers too.

1. Handwriting
The minimum requirement for readability is actual, physical readability. There’s no point in spending an hour writing scribble. I’m not saying you have to have perfect handwriting but it must be at least able to be deciphered later on.

2. Colour
I’m a big fan of colour in my lecture notes. Not colour as in a gay pride rainbow of different coloured pens and highlighters (I save that for my reading notes!) but just two colours to add some contrast. Personally I use blue and red. Red for headings, key points, case names and legislation and blue for everything else. This helps to break up the big block of text. If you find two pens too much of a hassle try the four or two colour pens which are avaliable. If blue and red are too boring try a rainbow!

3. Use bold, italics, underlines and CAPITALS
This is easier on the computer but works on paper too. Typefacing techniques can help to make key points easy to read and find.

4. Brackets
One of my favourite tricks is the use of square brackets ([ ]). If you get lost, bored or come up with an idea which could win you a Nobel Prize then stick it in square brackets. This works for stuff like “[I’m lost], “[NOTE: reread chapter 4]“, “[See lecture notes for quote]“, “[I don’t get this bit]“. This way your lecture notes will make more sense when you re-read them. This helps to avoid plagiarism too because you can clearly see which are your thoughts and which are others.

5. Arrows
I love arrows. Arrows appear copiously in my lecture notes. I use arrows, lines and boxes to show links between ideas and key points.

Hope this helps!

[UPDATE: I still I’m still getting heaps of links to this site from Lifehacker and various other popular internet sites. For those of you who have visited from such sites I’d very much like to welcome you to my blog and invite you to have a look around at the rest of the site. There’s tips and tricks for university/school study and also productivity and other information which is more general. If you’re a fan of lifehacker, 43Folders and other productivity p0rn sites then hopefully there’s stuff here which would be of interest to you.]

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