I think most of us have attempted to color code out notes in one way or another, but the problem is how can we use colors so our notes are not only pretty, but also useful? I am quite a fan of color coding my notes and I am here to share my secrets with you!
There are several ways to color code notes, but my favorite way is to assign each color a “job” and it will not do anything else than what is is assigned to. Here are the steps to some awesome color coded notes.
Step 1: STOP HIGHLIGHTING! Say Whaaaaaat? I like highlighting when I have been given a handout and I want to note to myself things that are important. However just lighting things in your notes will not do much good, because if you want everything to be organized you would end up with almost all of your notes highlighted and then it doesn’t stand out anymore.
Step 2: Gather color pens. Make sure they are the same type of pens. It looks a little awkward if two of your colors are ballpoint pens, while the rest are pens with a thicker tip, however if your blue/black pen is not the same texture as the color ones, it is not a big problem, just keep all the color ones the same. Trust me, it makes a difference! You will need about 6 different color pens (more or less depending on what subject and what exactly you need to take notes on).
Step 3: Assign each pen to a specific “job”. This should be consistent every time you take notes. Even keep it consistent for different classes. For example if green is assigned to keywords, then do that for every class. That way whenever you look at any of your notes you will know how to easily find the key words.
Here is how I assign my pens:
Topic/Heading/Title → Orange
Keywords → Green
Definitions of key words → Pink
General information/explanation → regular blue or black pen
Examples → Purple
People → Light blue
Dates/Years/Era of time → Red
Step 4: Make a cheat sheet. Yupp, to help you get used to remember what color should do what, take an index card, pos-it, or scrap piece of paper and write down what each color stands for. This will help you stay on track and not mess up your new notes.
Step 5: Start writing. Start taking notes and make sure to use your cheat sheet!
Step 6: Use the pens for more than color coding. For example words that I needed a definition for, but were not key words, I would just underline. To make certain words stand out, or a phrase that is important you can go over it a few times with the same color to bold it.
Also highlighters can be helpful, I know I just told you to stop highlighting, but this does not mean that highlighters should not be used at all while taking notes. It just is very easy to get lost when highlighting. I usually use mine when making charts or graphs. Also if there are things that I want to stand out a little, but they do not occur often enough to earn their own color pen, I usually underline them using a highlighter.
For Example: In my criminal justice classes, court cases pop up every once in a while. I underlined those with yellow highlighter, if I needed to find a court cases it was not very difficult, but since they were part of the general information, they did not get their own color. When using highlighters to underline they were also assigned a “job” just as the pens were.
How mine are assigned:
Yellow underline: Court cases
Blue underline: Acts
Pink underline: Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
Step 7: See what you’re missing. In most cases you will not know what exactly you will run into before you start taking the notes. So start writing and see what you are missing, and fix it.
Step 8: Use more than just the pens. Successful note taking does not just mean you have color coded it. There is more. For example do you skip a light between topics? What about sub topics? Do they get the same color as the topics? Maybe they get indented a little, to symbolize that they are subtopics.
Usually I skip lines between topics, and only indent for sub topics. They do all keep the same color heading. How your text book or source of information is organized will greatly impact how you can organize your notes with spacing. This takes trial and error, but after a few chapters it should start to work itself out.
Step 9: Do not go overboard. Just as in highlighting, you can go overboard with the colored pens. Do not make information stand out, if is is not important enough. For example, do not write every single date or year in red just because it is a date or year. Only put it in red if it is significant. If it is not, it will fall under the category of general information.
Step 10: Have fun and learn! Yes, it is possible to do both of those at the same time.
Have fun studying!