Study skills
By Gregory Mitchell - Copyright © 2003
Chapter 5 - Key Word Noting
A lot of people are dissatisfied with their note taking. They realize that they take down too many words, which in turn makes it difficult to get an overview. They find it difficult to sort the essential facts out of a lecture, a meeting or study materials. Very few people have had a satisfactory training in effective note taking, so the purpose of this chapter is to improve this skill.

Association plays a dominant role in nearly every mental function, and words themselves are no exception. The brain associates divergently as well as linearly, carrying on thousands of different actions at the same time, searching, sorting and selecting, relating and making syntheses as it goes along, using left and right brain faculties. Thus a person often finds that in conversation, his mind is not just behaving linearly, but racing on in different directions, exploring to create new ideas and evaluating the ramifications of what is being said. Although a single line of words is coming out, a continuing and enormously complex process is taking place in the mind throughout the conversation. At the same time subtle changes in intonation, body position, facial expression, eye language, and so on, are integrated into the overall process. 

Similarly the listener or reader is not simply observing a long list of words; he is receiving each word in the context of the ideas and concepts that surround it, and interpreting it in his own unique way, making evaluations and criticisms based upon his prior knowledge, experience and beliefs. You only have to consider a simple word and start recognizing the associations that come into your mind, to see that this is true. 

Words that have the greatest associative power may be described as Key Words. These are concrete, specific words that encapsulate the meaning of the surrounding sentence or sentences. They generate strong images, and are therefore easier to remember. The important ideas, the words that are most memorable and contain the essence of the sentence or paragraph are the key words. The rest of the words are associated descriptions, grammatical constructions and emphasis, and this contextual material is generally forgotten within a few seconds, though much of it will come to mind when the key word is reviewed. 

Because of their greater meaningful content, key words tend to 'lock up' more information in memory and are the 'keys' to recalling the associated ideas. The images they generate are richer and have more associations. They are the words that are remembered, and when recalled, they 'unlock' the meaning again. 

When a young child begins to speak, he starts with key words, especially concrete nouns, stringing them together directly - for example, 'Peter ball' or 'Anne tired'. It is not until later that sentences include grammatical construction, to give expressions such as 'Please would you throw me the ball' or 'I am feeling tired'. 


1. Introduction
2. Barriers to Learning
3. Setting Objectives
4. Reading Techniques
5. Key Word Noting
6. More on Note-Taking
7. Associative Networks
8. Asking Questions & Listening
9. Thinking Clearly
10. Word Definitions
11. Defeating the Decay of Memories
12. Physical Learning
13. Sight, Sound, Action...
14. The Decision to Fail
15. What's Next?


Copyright © 2004 Gregory Mitchell - Published by Trans4mind

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