A Roundup of Methods for Taking and Making Notes

Kara Monroe
13 min readJun 17, 2023

Introduction

I’ve written before on why & how I take notes. I see four purposes for taking notes:

  • Documenting what happened
  • Making notes to remember things
  • Making notes to learn things
  • Making notes to clarify my thinking

Today, I want to focus on all the different kinds of notes that you can take. In other words, I intend to begin to dive in depth into the how of note-taking and note-making.

I’m going to introduce a wide array of note types today. Over the coming weeks, I will be highlighting each kind of note, along with sharing research on taking and making notes. Let’s begin by clarifying taking and making notes.

What’s the difference between taking and making notes?

I see taking notes as a mostly passive activity. When you take notes you are capturing information, but you aren’t really processing that information. When you make notes, you are actively processing information and transforming it into your words and thoughts.

Let’s consider a few examples and place them on the spectrum between taking notes and making notes.

Example 1: Class Lecture Notes

Taking notes in class can bridge the spectrum from taking to making notes. In a classroom where you are typing essentially a transcript of what the instructor is saying, you are taking notes. If you are actively summarizing the instructor’s points as you listen in class — putting their words into your words — you are much closer to making notes.

Example 2: Genealogy Research

I take many notes as I examine genealogy records. I transform this into a note-making activity when I place family events on a timeline across multiple data sources. Furthermore, I have even taken a few tries at constructing a story from the various bits of information I find in news clippings, family journals, and public records.

Example 3: Handling Tasks

I take notes in meetings to capture the tasks I need to do to fulfill my commitments to…

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Kara Monroe

I am a world traveler, part-time road warrior, and home body all wrapped up in one gadget-loving package. Writer, photographer, chef, and aspiring artist.