Notes on Non-Technical Course Lectures

Non-technical courses are all those that are not focused on formulas and equations (that is, any course that isn’t math, science, economics or engineering, etc).

The key task in these courses is to identify the Big Ideas:
  • Look to identify the Question, the Conclusion (this is often the same as a thesis statement), and Evidence that connects the two.
  • If you’re not sure what the Question is to get started, just write Question: ... at the top of the page and continue on with the Evidence that is being presented.
  • The same holds true for Conclusions; if unsure, just write Conclusion: ... at the bottom of the section, and move on. During a down time in the lecture you can go back and figure it out.
  • A lecture may be one big Question - Evidence - Conclusion, or the professor may range through several. Some instructors go off on tangents (oh, really?), so it will take some practice before this is easy. But just trying to identify this structure will seriously catapult your comprehension and retention of course content.
  • Don’t be shy about approaching the professor after class to ask if your understanding of the Question and Conclusion he/she was discussing is accurate.
  • Be sure to note anything that is confusing or that you missed somehow, and get the answer to it after class.
  • Format aggressively. Use bolding, tabs, skipped lines, highlighting, asterisks, font size... whatever helps you convey meaning and significance.

This note-taking strategy is found in How to Become a Straight A Student by Cal Newport. If you do one thing to improve your grades, read this book.