Are you getting ready for second semester at university, college or high school? Today’s video is all about how I type my notes while at university to save time, paper (and my back!), and help me study more efficiently!
I’ve partnered with PDFelement, a product by Wondershare to bring you this video and to help you read and edit your PDF textbooks!
In the video I talk about
- why and when you might want to type rather than handwrite your notes (and what type of classes lend themselves well to this)
- some software options – and my favourite, OneNote on my Windows Surface Pro 3 (with a stylus!)
- my process for typing my notes and smart studying of course content WHILE reading
- the logistics I’m always asked about – pens, tags and highlight colours!
I used a script for this video (and strayed only slightly from it) in order to make it as concise as possible. So if you prefer reading, here it is below!
Whether you’re in your holiday break yet or not, I’m sure many of you will be getting ready to start your second semester in the coming month, so today I’m taking some time to chat about how I type notes for my university courses!
We’ll be talking about why and when you might want to type rather than handwrite, some software options – and my favourite – as well as my process for typing my notes and the logistics – pens, tags and highlight colours!
But FIRST, I want to mention the awesome company that’s sponsoring this video today. Wondershare. Their software, PDFElement can edit, convert, annotate, sign, and fill PDFs. I’d totally encourage you to download the ios or Android app, which is free, and the computer software trial and see if you might want to use it for your own typed notes! I did a week ago and played around with the features, and honestly this is a really powerful software. I’ve got links in the description if you want to take advantage of their 40% off Christmas deals!
On with the video.
First – if you’re trying to figure out whether you should type or handwrite your notes, there’s two things you should decide on.
And by the way, I am a huge advocate – especially since this is one thing I feel I’ve really grown in during my first semester at uni – for being intuitive with these things. Don’t plan too much, be open to changes, do what feels right in the moment. But I’m also a huge advocate for being smart about things – and taking notes is something that merits a bit of forethought because if you do, it can really make a difference in your studying process and results! And free time.
Two things you should decide on. First, is why you might be typing. And second is what subjects you should type for.
Personally, I type because it’s faster, it saves paper – and therefore my back, since I don’t have to carry a lot. I use a Windows Surface Pro for everything and can I just fangirl and say – this is THE BEST LAPTOP EVER CREATED. Ever. Typing also makes it easy to reorganize notes and as a result, go through multiple “stages” of studying. I also leverage – you can tell I’m a business student – learning psychology when figuring out my study practices. And one of the things that’s key there is knowing the learning curve and going through material several times for it to sink in.
As for subjects, I definitely DO NOT type notes for math heavy subjects. A good way to think of it is that usually subjects where your success is dependent on doing a ton of practice questions – calculus, stats, accounting, maybe economics, physics – are usually subjects you don’t want to type for. Because these are also usually (in my mind) very visual subjects and you benefit from layout out your handwritten pages in a minimal, mind-map sort of way. For my handwritten notes, I’ve linked a couple videos down below.
I DO type if there’s a lot of textbooks, readings, and details to know. There’s no point handwriting those because I don’t believe in the whole “you remember better if you handwrite”. I think the best way to remember those subjects is to go through information multiple times multiple ways and to practice “blurting”. But more on that later.
With regards to software, there’s really three options on the market. Microsoft Word, Google Drive, and OneNote. Lately, I’ve been digging being able to access notes from everywhere – my phone, laptop, a random computer. Personally, I use OneNote and have it synced up to OneDrive – this was SO confusing to set up guys and I swear I spent like the first two weeks of classes not even doing much work but setting it up. But hey, that’s how I work and now it’s literally PERFECTLY set up and I study super efficiently when I do. Short term time investment for long term gains. I also use the desktop version for more customization, and have a pen that I use to annotate. I love also that OneNote is the closest – visually and with features – to handwritten note you can get.
SO! Let’s get to the good stuff. My process, pens, colours and types of readings.
If you’ve seen my latest – and really content dense but not as nicely edited (sorry! But do watch it, I swear by what I say there), I have a three part process to studying. First contact, organizing, and applying the information to lectures and practice questions. When I type my notes, this process is a bit more nuanced. So first, I will read and highlight the textbook. And this depends on the type of textbook I’m reading.
Some of my classes have a physical textbook. Others have an online one, which I can’t highlight (or sometimes even search). And others give me PDF articles to read each week. For these, the PDFelement would be so useful, and I’m excited to be using it next semester. Right now I’m showing you some of the features you can use in the software. When reading any kind of textbook, I recommend really focusing on just absorbing and making connections with the information. If that means being distracted by searches, so be it. When studying for my business management exam last week, I came across Ponzi schemes, found Carlos Ponzi’s autobiography online and have really loved reading it. These kind of organic forays into your interests are valuable – don’t ignore them.
Next, I’ll type my notes. For short articles where I need to understand a general idea, I’ll finish the reading first and then type my notes based on what I’ve highlighted or the few brief headers I made while reading. For detailed, dense texts I’ll typed while I read, sacrificing some of my retention in the process.
My second stage – the “organizing” stage is when I’ll go through my typed notes on OneNote and fill in my “cornell column”. This is a summary column – and it’s super useful when reading over your notes and trying to test yourself, especially in the blurting phase.
After I’ve cornelled, I’ll highlight my notes digitally. I usually do this a week before the exam or test. This is another way to organize, because it helps me identify key components.
Finally, I’ll blurt. This is when I grab a random piece of paper and go through my cornell headers and write down whatever I remember. Then I compare and add what I missed. This is SO amazing. Try it and you’ll see. It works.
The reading and notetaking initial part ideally happens before class. That way, in class you can add more details, and use the right sideline to record any in class activities or discussions you have.
A quick note that I’ve learned this semester – if you don’t have enough time to do your notes before class, don’t try to do them all. Just start and it’ll be way better than nothing at all.
As for the logistics, I mainly type with bullet points. I use a lot of tags though, through OneNote. I’ve given them shortcuts, too, so that it’s easy to insert them while I’m taking notes.
Then, I also have a surface pen and regularly use three colours. These are the exact same as my handwritten system – I like to be consistent, and plus, if I ever print my notes (which I don’t, unless it’s needed for an in-class activity of some sort), they’re the same as I’m used to.
I use black for regular notes, pink for additions, and light blue for key points or questions I want to just write in free space rather than confine to a text box by typing it.
And highlighting is simple too. I use two colours regularly – yellow for key info, and blue for definitions. Then, pink is for key people, and turquoise/green is for key topics or things that aren’t definitions.
This makes it super easy to sort through notes later, which I read directly on my screen. Normally this bothers me – but my new laptop makes it both comfortable and somewhat easier on the eyes. And for my notes, OneNote makes it super easy.
So that’s it for my typed notes! Lots of information, but I wanted to just put it in one video so that you can have it all at once. Please do let me know what you thought in the comments below, I read them all and think about them all, and love engaging with you. Also – don’t forget to turn on notification if you want to know when I publish more videos with this awesome new camera I just got yesterday!
And once again, thank you to Wondershare for sponsoring this video with their PDFelement software. I think they have a great product, and will definitely be using it myself when next semester comes around. I have a lot of qualitative courses – marketing, organizational behavior, and business communications, so the ability to highlight and comment in all the pdf readings will be so helpful. Christmas discount links are in the description for you to get 40% off if you want to buy the software in the coming weeks!
– My university note-taking system (updated)
– My handwritten note-taking series
– My bullet, migration, signifier, and colour code system
– All Mistral Spirit Printables
– Setting up your first Bullet Journal!
– My laptop (Microsoft Surface Pro 3) *
Scribbles That Matter (my current bullet journal) *
– Zebra Mildliner (highlighters) *
– Muji Hexagonal Polycarbonate Gel Ink Ballpoint pen 0.38 Retractable (favourite pens)
– Staples AvantNext black pen (thicker pens I use for essay writing, available in store only)
Hi! I’m Ioana, an 18 y/o writer, student, entrepreneur, and cafe-hopper studying Commerce at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Philosophy: seize the day.
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL2 https://amzn.to/2CkoIpp
Video Editing: Adobe Premiere Pro
Photo Editing: Aviary for iPhone