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(Message started by: Soon-to-be Cal Student on Jun 8th, 2003, 5:41pm)

Title: Best way to take lecture notes?
Post by Soon-to-be Cal Student on Jun 8th, 2003, 5:41pm
Hey William,

I am going to be a student at Berkeley quite soon (starting Fall 2003)...I want to know how you take lecture notes in class.  I saw the other thread about latex, winedt, miktex, and xfig, but I still don't get how I am supposed to do it.  I don't know tex, so that's probably the problem...but I think it would be very helpful if you told me where to start, what to learn, and then how you yourself take notes...


Title: Re: Best way to take lecture notes?
Post by william wu on Jun 9th, 2003, 1:48pm
Hiya. Here are steps you should take to get started doing all this on a windows operating system; the sites referenced here have detailed directions.

1. Install cygwin, a linux-like environment for windows. This just consists of getting a copy of cygwin from http://www.cygwin.com and installing it ... clicking "next" a few times. Pretty simple.
2. Install MikTex. http://www.miktex.org/setup.html
3. Install xfig, a unix utility that will allow you to make diagrams. For directions check out http://www.cs.usask.ca/grads/wew036/latex/xfig.html
4. Install WinEdt. http://www.winedt.com/

Note that if you're doing this on a linux system you can bypass this whole installation process, because you probably have LaTeX and xfig already installed. If you're going to be majoring in computer science, or you want to pick up on geeky chicks, or you just want to do computer programming regularly, it's worth investing the time to set up Linux. Just remember to back up all your data first if you're doing it for the first time, because you'll probably screw up your partitions and end up formatting your hard drive, like a typical newbie.

Now you're set up. But you need to learn LaTeX/TeX to write stuff. If you've ever written HTML, it's very similar. Here are the tutorials I recommend.

Beginner's LaTeX Tutorial

An Introduction to Using in the
Harvard Mathematics Department
R. Kuhn, R. Scott, & L. Andreev
(for mathematicians who just want to "get the thing typed")

A cheatsheet-style reference card for TeX.

The Not So Short Introduction to Latex 2E. (Pretty long but will probably have what you're looking for. A good reference.)

Finally, one of the best ways to learn is by example. You'll probably get frustrated with the tutorials at some point and just want to look at the source code for some good example files. Check out the .tex files at http://www.renaissanceman.info/cheatSheets/.

As for typing lecture notes, I type pretty fast, so I just type up all notes and diagrams I see on the chalkboard/overhead, and when that's done I'm paraphrasing whatever explanatory material the teacher is saying that isn't on the chalkboard/overhead. When new topics are introduced, I'll start a new section, or subsection.

Hope that helps. Good luck at cal!

Title: Re: Best way to take lecture notes?
Post by Soon-to-be Cal Student on Jun 11th, 2003, 4:41pm
The Wu ;) ,

Thanks! That was really helpful.

Title: Re: Best way to take lecture notes?
Post by Icarus on Jun 11th, 2003, 7:43pm
Fogeyism is getting harder and harder to fight...

When I saw this thread, my first thought was along the lines of "In my day we got along just fine with pencil and paper!"

But the truth is
(1) I was always a lousy note taker.
(2) The more information that is available to you, the more likely you are to find what you need.
(3) I deny that this is not still "my day".

On the other hand...
(1) Don't ever put writing notes ahead of thinking about the material given. Probably the most common problem professors have is the students are so busy writing things down that they have no concept about what it means. And this was as true 20 years ago as it is now.
(2) More information is only useful if it is properly organized and screened. Too little water, and you die of thirst. Too much, and you die of drowning. Either way, you're still dead.

Bottom line: Listen first , think second, take notes third. Ignore unasked-for opinions forth... ;)

Title: Re: Best way to take lecture notes?
Post by James Fingas on Jun 12th, 2003, 6:20am
I'm in agreement with Icarus here. But I never took good notes either. I would spend the class thinking about what the prof was saying and jotting down a couple notes here or there. If you get the gist of it, then usually you don't need to know the specifics anyways (or can work them out again later).

Of course I know people who would be royally screwed if they tried to use this strategy.

Title: Re: Best way to take lecture notes?
Post by rmsgrey on Oct 26th, 2004, 3:24pm
On the better late than never front:

I got on fine with pen and paper - I used a sort of semi-shorthand of my own devising that sort of evolved over the last few years of school and enabled me to take (compressed) notes faster than the lecturer wrote on the board, while still parsing, error-checking and at least staying within shouting distance of understanding the notes (or in some cases while dreaming of giraffes, yet still somehow taking good notes) - experimentally, I could copy a friend's notes from a lecture I'd missed and still take full notes on the current lecture, though the parallel processing meant that the high-level understanding tended to suffer a little - error checking and compression generally kept up though.

I'm not sure I could still reproduce the text of a lecture from the notes for it though - part of the compression relied on the properties of the decompression device (namely my brain) and I may have changed enough over the years since for those portions not to be accurately expanded. On the other hand, the inaccuracies should generally be in the style rather than the content, so I could probably still use my notes to re-learn the material...

Whatever method you use, note-taking is a learned skill, and practice should enable you to improve.

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