Learning how to take notes is one of the more important skills every student must master. When reading a book or paper, or watching a presentation, notes will be your best friend when you try to remember the material you just consumed. Taking notes is more than just summarizing. In addition, the habits you form will not only help you recall and use material, but it will also protect you from plagiarism.
The first habit you should form is to always cite your sources in your notes.
If you are reading a book or paper, then prepare the bibliographic reference at the top. For example, if you are reading a book, then use the following as your header:
France, John. Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 1000-1300. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Citing a book or paper seems obvious, but you should consider that after you turn in a library book, close a journal article, and move on with your day-to-day, you will likely lose access to or forget the written source. There is no worse feeling than opening old notes and not remembering where they came from, especially if they are good notes!
If you are watching a presentation, then the same applies. Add enough detail at the top, so you can track down where you found the information. For example, details about a presentation at an academic conference would look something like the following.
Freehling, William. “Why Biography, and Why Another Biography of Abraham Lincoln.” 18th Annual James A. Barnes Graduate Student History Conference, Philadelphia, PA, March 22, 2013.
Make the reference as complete as possible. Think in terms that you may forget when and where you took the note.
If you form this habit, you will be on your way to strong note taking.
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor