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I was looking at this previous question on writing lecture notes he says:

Most students think that the reason to take notes is to have a reference for later, but we know that the real reason to take notes is to make your brain process the material. As a result, many students frantically write down computations instead of thinking about what is going on -- and reserve the "thinking about what is going on" until later!

From: How can we help students learn to effectively take notes?

This may have been true when I was a student. Now as a adult, there's a chance I'd have wanted to use my notes for future reference or even to distribute to others - if my ability to write had improved any since high school.

As we progress through school, our knolwlege has beceome more specialized and there's a chance I am the only person in the wrong who is knowledgeable on a given topic.

Theorem-Proof format works well for serious students Yet, I have seen many examples of lectures notes which are logically clear but very painful to read visually and logically disorganized.

I don't feel like writing a textbook, I am just looking for strategies for laying out materials on the page, and building narrative or logical sequences from the material that I have been given.


I don't even know if it's possible to translate the principles of good writing in other disciplines to a technical subject like math. Are there examples of really clear, easy to read lecture notes?

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  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure if you are a student wanting advice on how to make your own lecture notes better, or a teacher wanting to make the lecture notes you provide better. Presumably the latter, but I want to be sure. $\endgroup$ – DavidButlerUofA Nov 3 '14 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidButlerUofA I am an adult. By I have my MA, so I have read lots and lots of lectures notes, but now I have to write them. I've noticed most people do not dedicate nearly enough time to read notes as they should. Maybe instead, notes should just make the major points clear in an easy to read fashion, for review. If they want to read more, there is the textbook. What is the word for this -- like a cheat sheet, but with more details. $\endgroup$ – john mangual Nov 3 '14 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, I'm still confused. Are you being a teacher and creating notes to give to your students? Also, when some people say "lecture notes" they mean the thing that the students write themselves, based on what the lecturer speaks and writes during the lecture. While others mean a document which the lecturer makes and is given to the students. Which are you talking about? $\endgroup$ – DavidButlerUofA Nov 3 '14 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidButlerUofA There are many people writing lectures notes and posting them online. Here is an example from Music Theory and Calculus. These differ from texts in they do not try to be comprehensive, yet they manage to communicate a great deal if information. $\endgroup$ – john mangual Nov 3 '14 at 22:39
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I try to keep my work reusable, and from all things (which work or not, YMMV) I would stress one:

$${\Huge\text{context}}$$

There are many issues with searchability, readability, complexity, etc., but whatever you do, it is much easier to reuse your work when you know the context in which it had been done or used.

(All the arguments I would add were either obvious or pointless or unnecessary in some other way, so I cut them down.)

I hope it helps $\ddot\smile$

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