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Remote Library Instruction Basics and Tools: Note Taking Advice

Why Is Note Taking Important?

Note taking is a very important skill. It is also something, like many of the other skills outlined in this guide, that your professors won't teach you. However, while your professors don not teach notr taking, they will expect you know how to take notes.

Here are some of the ways note taking will help you to better understand the material being taught in your classes, which in turn will help you to be a more successful student:

  • Taking notes helps you to focus better.

The average person speaks approximately 120-160 words per minute. Our brains are capable of handling 400-800 words per minute. This difference or "word lag" can lead us to become bored with whomever is speaking, especially if the the topic is new to us. Taking notes while someone is talking will help to hold your interest while also giving your professor the impression that you actually want to learn -- something that is remembered at grading time.
  • Taking notes helps you to better remember what the class you just took was all about.

There is a limit on how much information our minds can store at any given moment. As we take in new information, older information moves to another part of our brains. This means this information now needs to be recalled -- having notes makes it easier for you to do this. See The Magic Number Seven box on this page.
  • It makes you better able to understand the what is actually important.

The more you take notes in class the better you become at intuiting what are the main points you should really focus on. 

The Magical Number Seven

Psychologist George Miller published an article about his research on memory in 1956. What he found in 1956 is still considered to be true today. His research was on the limits of the average person's short term memory.

Basically, George Miller found that our "channel capacity" or the ability to make choices lies somewhere between five and nine. Hence, The Magic Number Seven (7 - 2 = 5 and 7 + 2 = 9). Thus, you really can't depend on our short term memories to retain a lot of information. You need to take notes!

Read the George Miller's 1956 article that explains his research. It's available through PsychArticles a library database. Here's the citation that contains the information you would need to find his article:

Miller, George A. "The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two: Some Limits On Our Capacity for Processing Information." Psychological Review 63.2 (1956): 81-97. APA PsychArticles. Web. 16 Mar 2020.


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