Turning Notes into a Study Tool

You take notes in class. Then, it’s just as important to take those notes and make them a usable study aid that allows you to better connect concepts, learn the material, and check for full understanding.

What are the advantages of turning my notes into one of these study tools?

  • The process requires active thinking and brainstorming about the material.
  • It can make your studying more efficient as your review information regularly.
  • These tools organize information logically and can help you to visually remember the information.
  • It helps you to emphasize relationships within the material and link course content.
  • You will be able to more easily review a large amount of material.
  • It will encourage you to be concise with information.
  • You will be able to better identify your gaps in knowledge.
  • You can more easily integrate your textbook and lecture notes together.

Here are some examples of ways to turn lecture notes into a study aid. 

Create an Outline

Create “chunks” of interrelated information with the use of letters, numbers, or bullets to indicate relationships.

Useful for subject matter that is 

  • Chronological  
  • Defined topics and subtopics
  • A textbook chapter

Outline Example

Create Column Notes

Use the left column for key terms, equations and the step-by-step process to solve the equation, or questions, while the right column is for definitions, explanations of the equation and process, or answers.  Useful for subject matter that is 

  • Q&A
  • Math equations
  • Definitions

Column Example 

Make a Table or Matrix

Take a set of items to be compared (the vertical categories) and determine aspects or questions that should be evaluated (the horizontal categories).

Useful for subject matter that is

  • Theories or theorists
  • Compare or contrast oriented
  • Many categories or classifications

Table/Matrix Example 

Create a Concept Map

Write a general concept or idea. Brainstorm any more specific ideas you associate with that concept. Connect different ideas by drawing lines to connect similar information. Categories will emerge. Information can be mapped based on cause and effect, comparison-contrast, events, characters, etc.

Useful for subject matter that is

  • Many concepts, elements, or categories
  • Ideas and relationships
  • Information with many examples

Concept Map Example 

Make a Timeline or Flowchart

Draw a diagram for a chronological sequence of events, significant milestones, or a process.

Useful for subject matter that is

  • Historical records
  • A sequence of events
  • A process with several steps and alternate versions

Flowchart Example 



    Bixby, Mary K. "Information Management Systems: Getting it and getting it together." Learning in College: I Can Relate. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000. 18-23

    “Note Taking Systems | Academic Skills Center: Study Skills Library | Cal Poly.” Accessed July 13, 2016. http://www.sas.calpoly.edu/asc/ssl/notetakingsystems.html.

    "Sugar Homeostasis - Biology Online." Accessed August 3, 2016. http://www.biology-online.org/4/3_blood_sugar.htm.

    "Taking Notes." 01:26:59 UTC. http://www.slideshare.net/covs/taking-notes-5823289.

    "Week 9 Regulating Reading 201501." 17:28:07 UTC. http://www.slideshare.net/edd101/week-9-regulating-reading-201501. 

    Wong, Linda. "Learning from College Textbooks." Essential Study Skills. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. 210-249.