Today we are featuring a guest post from April Philley. She is a 1L from the University of Texas School of Law with some excellent suggestions for using Microsoft OneNote as a way to organize your class notes. With exams coming up, it is always helpful to have new suggestions for studying. In this piece, April will break down the best ways to use Microsoft OneNote to get the most out of your notes.
I love Microsoft OneNote. It’s clean, it’s intuitive, and it helps me organize my notes absurdly well. While it possesses many stellar qualities, such as online syncing that allows me access from my laptop, tablet, and phone, there are three main features that cemented my devotion:
- Hierarchy of Notes, Sections, and Notebooks
- Freeform typing
- Tagging and color coding
OneNote has three main levels of organization: pages, which are grouped into sections, which are then grouped into notebooks. I’ve recently discovered you can create sub-pages and groups of sections within notebooks, over which I promptly geeked out.
For this semester, I have a notebook titled “1L Fall”, with sections for Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Torts, and Legal Research & Writing. Within each section, I divided my pages by topic, so for Torts I have pages on Intentional Torts, Negligence, Damages, etc. This makes it super easy for me to find what I’m looking for and mentally organize my notes as I take them.
OneNote appeals to the contrarian to me because of its ‘click and type’ feature. As the name suggests, you click anywhere on the note and start typing. I keep two columns in my notes: in the left, in black, are notes from reading and in the right, in red, are notes I take during class. If we gloss over a case in class, but it takes up two paragraphs in my notes, I can scroll down and start taking notes on the next case without having to precisely format it.
Freeform typing puts every section of text in an individual box. Once you’ve entered text, you can then alter its size and move it elsewhere on the page, which is helpful if your professor tends to talk in circles like one of mine does.
It can take a little getting used to after Word, as you have to be more precise with your clicking, but I’ve found it a quick adjustment.
Tagging and Color Coding
One of my favorite features to use in class is tagging and color coding, which ties in closely with freeform typing.
Tags make outlining, office hours, and specific recall wonderfully easy. OneNote allows you to mark sections of text with a label that provides a visual cue and allows you to search by tag. I have at least six tags I use on a regular basis: Important, Key Concept, Critical, Question, Compare/Contrast, and Hypothetical. For example, when I go to office hours, I pull up my notes tagged Question, which brings up a list of every section of text I’ve marked as a question I want to ask my professor. I’m a very visual learner, so it’s especially great for quick recall and association.
Thanks April! Have any questions for April? Please leave them in the comments.
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