Student Life, studying advice

How I use Microsoft OneNote

Since my second year of university I’ve always been a digital notes kinda gal. Being able to type has saved me hours when tidying up my notes and revising them. I’ve tried a few different apps / note-taking software but my loyal favourite has to be Microsoft’s OneNote, which I use free of charge with the Apple Store app.

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Notebooks

The first thing I set up in Microsoft OneNote were my different notebooks. Think of these as being just like real notebooks that you would buy at the stationary shop. For my OneNote, I set up four different notebooks, in different colours. I named them after each class that I am taking: French Language, Italian Language… etc. For the purposes of this, I will be talking about my notebook for a film class that I am taking called Italian Stage and Screen. 

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Here is what my Italian Stage and Screen Notebook looks like. Each coloured tab represents different topics that I have looked at in the course. As this is an opera and film class, I have organised each tab by what text the class is looking at. Course Notes is my information tab, it has all the details that I need to know to take the class, for example when the class is running, in what room, the name of the tutor and their contact details etc. Then each subsequent tab has the text. For an example, I’ll share what my tab for the 1890 opera Cavalleria Rusticana looks like. (Apologies for the very obvious spelling mistake!)

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As you can see, on the right side there is a list of pages in my Cavalleria Rusticana section. This allows me to split my notes up even further. I always devote the first tab to Personal Research. Before attending my first seminar, I like to look up the basics of the text. Here, I have noted down the important details, such as the composer for the opera or the English translation of the title. Now I can use this page as a reference for when my other notes become more academic and complicated. What I love about OneNote is that it automatically colour codes all of my notes as well, so I can easily see what matches up with what.

My Class Notes

Essentially, OneNote works like any other word processor. You can make your notes bold or italic. You can underline them or format them in any way that you like. I suggest even colour coding key phrases, if that is something that would help you. What makes OneNote even better for me, however, is the amount of other useful additions you can make to your notes that simply wouldn’t be possible with an ordinary notebook from the supermarket.

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As you can see, it’s possible to add file attachments to your notes, as well as links. I think this is perfect when it comes to research, especially for topics like history. If I’m doing a bit of background reading online about a topic, it’s easy enough for me to keep the link safe by slotting it into my notes. Next to links, there’s also a function for adding equations to your notes which I’d imagine would be really helpful for the maths buffs out there. Finally, another really unique function that I like is the option to add audio recording. Especially for languages students, I think it would be great to be able to record pieces of audio to keep in your notes. The possibilities are endless, you could record yourself saying your notes to practise pronunciation, or take note of the correct pronunciation of a word by asking a native speaker to record it for you. With your lecturer’s permission you could even record a full lecture to listen to near exam time.

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Typing makes everything easier for me. I can type much faster than I can write, and it certainly looks a lot prettier than my careless scrawling. All I had to do was download the Microsoft OneNote app to my iMac and to my iPad as well. Nowadays, I don’t take paper to university with me at all, only my trusty tablet. In classes, I make notes on the tablet either with the on-screen keyboard or by hooking up my bluetooth keyboard that I got from Amazon. Thanks to the app’s sync feature, by the time I’m home from university all my notes from the day have transferred over to my home computer, where I can continue working on them there. As much as I love my quirky and beautiful notebooks, I’m hands-down on team digital now.

Do you prefer to take handwritten notes or type them up?

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3 thoughts on “How I use Microsoft OneNote”

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