How to Take Notes from a Video: 5 Strategies that Work

How to Take Notes from a Video: 5 Strategies that Work

Taking notes is essential; it helps you retain and recall new information over time that would otherwise be lost to your short-term memory. While the idea of note-taking is usually associated with students taking classes, many working professionals also use note-taking during meetings, training, speeches, and talks, and even while watching videos to ensure that they understand and remember new information.

How do you take notes from a video? There are several note-taking strategies that can be applied to taking notes from videos, including:

  • Outlining
  • Cornell Method (Split-Page Method)
  • Boxing Method
  • Charting
  • Mapping

However, the best note-taking strategy for you will depend on your learning needs as well as the type of learner you are.

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About Note-Taking

Note-taking is an important activity, not just for students, but for anyone who wants to learn a new concept or understand and remember further information.

Taking notes offers many benefits:

  • Note-taking can help you retain old information before learning new material.
  • It allows you to review and retain new key concepts following a video or class.
  • Taking notes during a video or lecture helps you stay focused on the material being presented.
  • Finally, note-taking keeps your thoughts about new ideas and concepts organized.

Note-Taking Tools

To start taking notes, all you really need is an ordinary notebook and pen or pencil. However, there are other note-taking tools you can use as well:

Sticky Notes

Use sticky notes to bring attention to key ideas written in your notebook, or to use as a reminder for tasks related to your notes.

Highlighters

For more visual learners, highlighters are handy in drawing your eye to essential topics in your notes.

Bullet Journals

Also ideal for visual learners, bullet journals allow you to doodle as well as take notes to help you retain new information. Even if you are not entirely a visual learner, you can use a bullet journal as a representation of your thought process as you begin to understand new material or combine aspects of different note-taking styles. If you are looking for a great physical notebook to use for journaling, you really can’t beat the Moleskine notebook (affiliate link)

If you are an Evernote user, check out our article on how to bullet journal using Evernote at the link below:

Link to How to Bullet Journal Using Evernote article

Laptop or Tablet

Those who prefer typing or digitizing notes may prefer using a computer or tablet rather than paper and pen.

Digital Note-taking

Applications such as Evernote or GoodNotes allow you to type out your notes and save them to cloud storage to access from any device. Some digital note-taking features include the ability to add photos, slideshows, and even videos to your document for more comprehensive notes. Some digital note-taking applications also allow you to use built-in templates to help your notes stay organized.

If you are interested in digital note-taking, you might be interested in my articles on Evernote, Google Keep, Bear Notes and Microsoft OneNote:

Semi-Digital Note-taking

There are also quite a few applications that allow you to write your notes by hand and still be able to access them on a computer.

For example, Rocketbooks (affiliate link) are reusable notebooks that you can write notes on. After writing down your notes, you can use the Rocketbook app to scan your notes and convert them into a text or PDF file for future reference. You can then wipe the pages clean and start fresh with new notes.

The benefit with notebooks like these is that you not only save paper, but they look and feel as if you’re writing on standard notebook paper with a regular pen.

Video-Specific Note-taking

Some applications exist that are meant to help you take notes while watching videos, specifically. Apps such as Videonot and RocketNotes, for example, are designed to open a side panel alongside the video you are viewing so you can simultaneously take notes as you watch the video.

The panel creates a timestamp from the video every time you make a note of something so that when you go back to review your notes over a specific video, you can navigate to that timestamp to watch that portion of the video again for clarification. This is especially useful for auditory learners who are going back to summarize ideas and take notes after watching a longer video.

5 Ways to Take Notes from a Video

The following are five strategies you can use to take notes from a video or lecture:

Outlining

The Outline Method is used to divide notes from a video or lecture into main ideas, subtopics, and details using headers and bullet points or numerical lists. It is the most popular note-taking method among students and learners because its structure and organization allow you to go back and review notes regarding a specific topic from a lesson quickly.

This note-taking strategy usually works best if you know that the video or lecture you are viewing will follow a relatively clear structure.

(Source: Medium)

Pros

  • It highlights the critical points of a video or lecture in a logical way.
  • The natural note-taking structure allows you to focus on the video or lecture.
  • Reduces the time needed to review or edit notes.
  • It offers an organized structure for notes.

Cons

  • Not an ideal note-taking tool for subjects related to chemistry, physics, math, or any other topic involving different formulas or charts.
  • It does not work as effectively for videos or lectures that are not structured or following a specific kind of format.

Using the Outlining Method

Start your notes from the left-hand margin of your notebook. Begin your outline with a Roman numeral (i.e., I, II, III, IV), followed by the main idea, boiled down to a couple of words.

Under the line in which you wrote the main idea, leave a small indent, followed by a capital letter (A) for your first subtopic. For each following subtopic, label it with a corresponding capital letter that goes with the alphabet (i.e., “B” for the second subtopic, “C” for the third, etc.).

After another small indent towards the center of the page, use regular numbers (i.e., 1, 2, 3) underneath the subtopic lines to note details about the subtopic. If necessary, you can use other labels—such as lowercase letters (i.e., a, b, c, d)—to signal greater details after another indent.

Your final outline should look something like the following:

(Source: YouTube: How to Take Notes)

Cornell Method

Also known as the Split-Page Method, the Cornell Method is a note-taking method that centers around your page layout. The page is divided into three to four sections:

  • Title
  • Notes
  • Comments and Questions (Cues)
  • Summary

The Cornell Method works great for a variety of video and lecture types in addition to meetings.

Pros

  • The method offers a fast way to take, review, and organize notes.
  • It summarizes new information in a systematic way.
  • It allows you to absorb information in less time.
  • The method helps you extract vital points.
  • It saves time spent reviewing.

Cons

  • Pages need to be sectioned before watching the video or lecture.
  • It requires additional time to review and summarize the main ideas.

Using the Cornell Method

Leave room at the top of your page to write the title of the video or lecture and the date.

Underneath this section, use a ruler to draw a straight, vertical line about a third of the way from the left margin (draw the line to reach about halfway down the page). You should end up with two columns, the left one being smaller in width (30% of the page) compared to the right (remaining 70% of the page).

Label the left column “Cues” and the right column “Notes.” The “Cues” section is used to write down any new or critical vocabulary terms as well as questions that may present during the video. The “Notes” section is used to identify and note the central ideas of the video or lecture you’re watching.

Following the video or lecture, use your ruler to draw a horizontal line underneath the two columns and your notes. Use the space underneath the horizontal line to write a summary of the video you just watched and its main ideas.

(Source: Medium)

Boxing Method

The Boxing Method of note-taking is not nearly as well-known as other note-taking strategies but is still reasonably effective. It involves grouping notes that are related to each other together in a box. One box is assigned for each section of your notes.

This note-taking strategy is recommended for videos or lectures that are split into different sections. It is ideal if you take notes digitally, like on note-taking applications.

Pros

  • It organizes your notes by section.
  • It allows you to focus on one section (or box) at a time while viewing videos or lectures.
  • It helps you memorize the connection between notes and sections in a visual way.

The notes can be formatted as stacks of content or in two divided columns. After viewing the video or lecture, go back and draw boxes around each group of notes for each section or topic covered. Your notes should end up looking almost like this:

Cons

  • Not suitable for every video or lecture type.
  • It does not work efficiently if overall topics cannot be assigned to a group of notes.
  • Requires additional time to group and organize the notes at the end of the video or lecture.

Using the Boxing Method

Because it is difficult to determine how many notes will be required for each section of a video or lecture beforehand, avoid drawing your boxes until towards the end. As you watch the video or speech, try to group related notes in one area of the page. Start taking notes in a separate area when you encounter new topics or sections in the video or lecture.

The notes can be formatted as stacks of
content or in two divided columns. After viewing the video or lecture, go back
and draw boxes around each group of notes for each section or topic covered.
Your notes should end up looking almost like this:

(Source: Medium)

Charting Method

This note-taking method involves organizing information in several columns, similar to a table or spreadsheet. Each column represents a different category that makes the rows easily comparable.

The Charting Method works best for notes that will include a lot of factual or statistical information—specifically information that will need to be memorized. The best time to use this strategy is while you’re summarizing notes after a video or lecture.

Pros

  • Ideal for stats and facts.
  • Information is structured in a clear and organized way.
  • Easy to review later.
  • Notes are easily comparable.
  • A large amount of information can be memorized quickly.

Cons

  • It can be very time-consuming.
  • Hard to apply with a video or lecture where the content is not clear beforehand.
  • It does not work with information that cannot be categorized.

Using the Charting Method

After viewing a video or lecture, draw a table on the page. Each column should be labeled as a different category, while each row is labeled by the topics or ideas you wish to compare in the table. Use any notes that you have taken during the video or lecture to organize information in the table. For example:

(Source: Medium)

Mapping Method

The Mapping Method is a note-taking method ideal for videos or lectures with a lot of new, detailed information. It involves organizing your notes by dividing them into branches (tree-map) or webs (mind map) that help you connect related topics to each other.

The Mapping Method works best for heavy videos or lectures, or for material that you have no previous knowledge about.

Pros

  • Visually appealing and easy to follow.
  • It can be used to note detailed information in a concise way.
  • It allows for easy review and editing.

Cons

  • You may easily run out of space on a single page while mapping.
  • Notes can be confusing to follow if the information is wrongly placed while note-taking.

Using the Mapping Method

There are two ways you can use the Mapping Method: branches and webs.

Branches (Tree-Map)

Start by writing the main topic of the video or lecture at the top. As you take notes, create a new branch for each subtopic on the left and right as you move down the page. Create smaller branches for any specific facts or details you want to remember.

(Source: Medium)

Webs (Mind Map)

Turn your notebook on its side so that the horizontal lines are now facing vertically. The spiral-bound edge should be on the top, opposite from you.

Write the main topic (summarized by a few words) in the middle of the page, and circle it. Next, write the subtopics of your notes around the main idea, each in their own circle. Draw a line connecting each subtopic to the main idea.

Finally, add your details for each subtopic, connecting each detail to a subtopic circle.

If you are interested in learning more about mind maps, check out my article on mind-mapping.

(Source: YouTube: How to Take Notes)

What’s the Best Note-Taking Style for You?

The note-taking strategy that will work best for you will depend on the type of learner you are.

Types of Learning Styles

There are five main categories of learning styles. Your learning style stems from how you best receive and understand new information.

Visual (Spatial) Learners

Visual learners prefer using pictures, diagrams, colors, maps, and more to interpret and comprehend new information.

The best note-taking methods for visual learners are those that involve the high use of images, diagrams, and colors. For this reason, the Mapping and Boxing note-taking methods appeal to visual learners.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners learn best when they hear new information. If you’re an auditory learner and are watching a video, you are already a step ahead in being able to retain the material the video has to offer.

Regardless of whatever note-taking strategy auditory learners use, they work best when they take notes or summarize main ideas after watching a video, rather than take notes as the video is playing. For this reason, it is ideal to use the Cornell Method, which allows you to jot down brief notes now to summarize later.

Tactile (Kinesthetic) Learners

Tactile learners learn best by moving and doing. Essentially, tactile learners prefer a more hands-on approach when understanding new information.

The best note-taking method for tactile learners involves using flashcards or note cards or simply taking active breaks in-between note-taking in general. Many tactile learners enjoy typing their notes or using digital note-taking tools as it involves more movement with both hands rather than handwriting notes with one. Because of the digital note-taking aspect, tactile learners enjoy using the Boxing Method for notes.

Verbal (Linguistic) Learners

Verbal learners enjoy reading or listening to speech in order to learn.

Verbal learners work best by writing down notes in full sentences and using headings to organize their notes by topic. Outlining can be the best note-taking method to do this.

However, with this note-taking method, it is important only to write down the most important points to keep up with the video or lecture as it goes on. Verbal learners should also write notes in the margins of the page as you review notes to help retain old information better.

Logical (Mathematical) Learners

Logical learners prefer to use logic, reasoning, patterns, and other systems in order to understand new information.

The best note-taking method for logical learners is those that involve associations or connecting seemingly unrelated ideas together, such as the Boxing Method, Charting, or Mapping.

(Source: Oxford Learning)

Note: It is possible that you can have a mix of two more learning styles. In these cases, some find that a combination of note-taking strategies works best for them rather than a single method.

For example, you may find the Cornell Method more useful for note-taking if you organize your notes as an outline within the page layout rather than just jotting down the main ideas. Or, you may prefer to organize the boxes in the Boxing Method as if they are part of a mind map from the Mapping Method.

There is no one right way to take notes; use the note-taking strategy (or combination of strategies) that works best for you!

Final Note-Taking Tips

Here are some final tips for making sure your notes are clear and relevant to the kind of information you want to retain from a video or lecture.

The Five Rs of Note-Taking

The five Rs of note-taking are meant to help you create clear, comprehensive notes that will help you retain what you’ve just learned:

Record

During the video or lecture, make sure you write down your notes in a legible way. It may be your own handwriting, but you’d be surprised how often students and learners find their writing difficult to comprehend after being away from their notes for a while!

Reduce

Following the video or lecture, write down a brief summary of the different ideas presented throughout. Doing so will help you clarify the notes you wrote down during the video and strengthen memory retention.

Recite

Recite as much information as you can remember without referring to your notes or text. This is especially useful for auditory learners, as this strategy will allow you to re-hear the lesson in your own words, and strengthen retention.

For those who aren’t auditory learners, this strategy will likewise give you the opportunity to understand the material in your own words so that it becomes easier to remember later.

Reflect

Think about your own ideas and opinions as you read over your notes. Ask yourself questions about the materials and try to answer them based on what you’ve learned from the video or lecture. Write down these ideas and answers to your questions along the margins of your notes to view later; they will come in handy if you need to answer exam questions, write an essay, or participate in class or group discussions later.

Review

Before watching a new video or lecture, or reading or studying new material, take about ten minutes to review your past notes quickly. Skim over the main ideas, subtopics, and details you’ve previously written. This review process will help you retain old material before you add new material to your memory.

After taking notes for new material, make sure you review them within the first 24 hours after watching the video or lecture. This will help keep the information from fleeing your short term memory.

(Source: Penn State University)

Note-Taking Don’ts

  • Don’t write excessive notes.
    • Try to keep your notes as clear and concise as possible to make them easier to review later.
  • Don’t write too little notes.
    • By the same token, avoid limiting how many notes you take. At least include the main topics, subtopics, and their related details.
  • Don’t take notes consistently from the video.
    • You can lose out on other, new important information if you’re always distracted by writing previous information down. Jot down a few words that will help you go back and fill in missing information after the video is over.

Other Video Note-Taking Tips

  • Stay aware of the theme of the video.
    • Note if the video you are watching is part of a full course or playlist.
  • Make sure to note information someone in the video highlights or says is important.
    • Also, note any scenes or sections that interest you or look important.
  • Pay attention to repetition.
    • If an idea or phrase is repeated in the video, it’s most likely important for you to remember. Once you’ve written it down in your notes, either underline or highlight it to signify that it is an important note.
  • Pause the video every five to ten minutes to write down more notes or review what has been covered so far.
  • Find the right note-taking timing for yourself.
    • Some people find that they retain information better if they take notes after watching a video rather than during.

(Source: USC)

Note-taking offers many benefits; not only does it aid in your understanding and retention of new material, but it also helps you keep your thoughts organized, stay focused, and even remember old information.

But, there’s more to note-taking than just writing down the information you hear or see on paper; it’s about summarizing and noting key ideas as precisely as possible using your own words so that you can thoroughly understand and retain the new material.

There are several note-taking methods out there that can enhance your learning experience, from outlining to mapping. While all of these strategies are effective, the best note-taking method for you will depend on your learning style and how you like to keep information organized.

If you’re still not sure of your learning style, give all of these mentioned methods a try to see which one works for you. In fact, you may find that a combination of some of these methods is ideal for your learning experience!

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