Time management

Taking notes

Using diagrammatic & linear notes

Diagrammatic notes

Tony Buzan, in his book Use Your Head (BBC Publications, 1974) puts forward a model for note-taking based on the use of diagrammatic, or "pattern", notes:

  • Pattern notes begin in the centre of the page and branch outwards in all directions like a road map.
  • Adding a new topic is like adding a major road, with reference and other material branching off to form side roads.
  • Links between sections can be made with dotted lines or arrows (like proposed roads or by-passes).

Image of spider diagram

Figure 1: Spider diagram

Advantages of diagrammatic note taking:

  • allows the structuring of complex relationships.
  • open-ended - new material can be inserted at any point
  • ideal for planning essays -various models of your topic can be developed without having to scrap one version in favour of another.
  • links between important points can be shown.
  • visual nature aids recall.
Diagrammatic Notes (PDF opens in new window)

Linear notes
Re-organisation to the layout of your notebook may well prove beneficial:

  • Use loose-leaf note-books so that you can incorporate additional relevant material later.
  • Learn to recognise anecdotal material - you rarely need to record this.
  • Make use of the planned structure of the lecture to help you set out your notes.

In order to develop a consistent style:

  • Use headings, sub-headings, bullet points and indentations to identify and separate the various components of the lecture.
  • Use abbreviations / stars / dashes / underlining / colour etc. to emphasize main points and connections.
  • Develop your own shorthand for recurring themes, technical terms, formulae etc.
  • Use diagrams as visual keys, even if you don’t use "pattern notes" generally.
  • Group references and notes on further reading to give them more prominence. 
  • Cross-reference lecture notes to course-work or private study.
  • File your notes carefully and consistently. 
  • Standardise your page layout in order to identify the type of material you are dealing with.

Image of linear notes

Figure 2: Linear notes

If you are not sure of the best location for your notes:

  • photocopy and file in two or more locations
  • insert a reference sheet to identify the location of the complete set of notes.
Linear Notes Layout (PDF opens in new window)