I don’t know about you, but I like to give some texture to my text. A simple change in the layout or format of the text can boost comprehension and recall. It's like providing your brain with navigation tools. I don’t like the densely-typed sameness that goes on and on for pages. I get lost in such notes like in certain suburban neighborhoods where every house looks alike. A few days ago, I read an interesting article on How Users Read on the Web. It turns out they don’t. Most people just scan websites, looking for key words and ideas. I see some similarities with student notes. Students diligently take notes, but they don’t really want to read them again. Perhaps, the following tips for web writing can be applied to note-taking to improve readability and retention:
- Highlight keywords.
- Use meaningful subheadings.
- Use bullet points or numbers to list items.
- Start a new paragraph for each new idea.
- Be concise.
For note-takers, I would add:
- Develop a system of abbreviations and symbols for frequently used words and concepts.
- Use visuals, such as tables, time lines, concept trees, mind maps whenever you can.
Perhaps, if you jazz up your notes, you are more likely to go back and review them after all. What do you think?