Introduction to Philosophy FA '12 @ Cortland College


Due: Within 48 hours of the end of class for which you were assigned notes.  (Example: If class ends at 11:20 on a Tuesday, the notes are due by 11:20 on Thursday.)

Note:  If you want to take part in this extra credit assignment, you must sign up for it by Fri, Aug 31st.


  1. To learn how to reflect on and digest new philosophical material from the course and
  2. to provide a resource for the class.

The main purpose of the notes is to help each student better understand the material from class.  To learn, it is not enough to simply copy down what is said in class and written on the board.  Research shows that the best learning occurs when students restate new material in their own words and organize it in the way that best makes sense to them.  Thus, taking notes doesn't end in class, but when you think through the meanings and consequences of the new concepts and theories and can explain them to yourself.


  1. Take notes in class.
  2. Review your notes soon after class.
  3. Rewrite your notes in an organized fashion according to the template provided, within 48 hours of the end of class.
  4. Post your revised notes to the Google Doc for your section.

1. Take Notes: As you can see, taking notes doesn't end in class, but it definitely begins in class.  You need to make sure that you get all the information from the class written down in an organized and easy to understand way.  I recommend using a modified Cornell Method: Separate the paper into two parts: a narrow column on one side and a bigger one on the other.  In the narrow column you will simply write down key terms/words/points.  In the bigger column, you will keep track of all the main information from the class.  Finally, when class is over, quickly write a two or three sentence summary of what was learned in class.  This will help you better grasp your notes later on when you review.

2. Review: you need to review your notes and not just before a quiz or the final.  Your notes are actually the most useful when you review them within 24 hours of learning the material.  I suggest that during your first time set aside for work after class, you sit down and look over your notes.  Ask yourself:

  • What does each concept, theory, and idea mean?  Are there any examples that might help you understand them?
  • How do the different ideas introduced fit together?  Are some ideas opposed?  Are some complimentary?
  • Is the information from class related to anything we've learned previously?
  • If you had to explain the information in your notes to someone outside of class, could you do it?  How would you explain it?

3. Rewrite: After you've reviewed, rewrite your notes with an eye towards clarity and comprehension.  Use the template provided in the Google Doc to give your notes a basic structure:

  1. Summarize the most important points of the lecture in your own words in a paragraph of 150 words or less at the start of your notes.  This provides a framework for other students to read your notes.
  2. Define the new terms from the lecture as simply as possible.  You will have time to expand on the definition later in your notes.
  3. Outline the lecture.  In doing so,
    • Reorganize the way information is introduced or ordered to reflect your best understanding of the material
    • Break the lecture into sections to make it more easily digestible
    • Briefly summarize each section of the lecture.

4. Post: Either compose all of this in the Google Docs (it auto saves) or write it in a separate document and copy and paste.  If you write it outside of Google Docs, make sure you clean up any formatting issues that occur as a result of copying and pasting.  This will insure that the meaning of your notes is clear to everyone reviewing them.


All notes should include the following three sections, in this order:

In this section you should provide a short (150 words or less) summary of the main idea of the day’s lecture. This summary should provide other students with a brief overview of the main ideas of the lecture and their relationship.

Key Terms:
In this section you should provide a list of important terms, concepts, or ideas for understanding this lecture. If a term is being introduced for the first time, define it briefly. This allows students to know ahead of time what terms they should be paying extra attention to. It also provides a resource for yourself and other students when you go to review--the key terms are available at a glance.

In this section you should provide an outline of the entire lecture. This is where you provide a complete, organized account of all of the information discussed in the lecture (the importance of new concepts, how they are applied, thought experiments, important class discussions). A bare outline is not enough, you must give context, description, and summary.


After the due date and time for notes, I will review them within 24 hours.

IMPORTANT: I will mark any wrong information in RED and any ambiguous information (information that is unclear or potentially misleading) in BLUE.  So please make sure you do not use these colors in your notes.

Grade Description

Notes are accurate and demonstrate strong engagement with the material.  The notes correctly and clearly present all information from the lecture (in accordance with the provided template).  The summaries and organization of the notes show evidence of reflection and thought.


Notes are accurate on most important information and demonstrate strong engagement with the material.  The notes correctly present the most critical information from the lecture, but may omit or demonstrate misunderstanding of minor points.  Notes are largely organized, but may need clarification on some points.


Notes are largely complete, but misrepresent or omit one or more critical points.  The notes present the basic fact of material from the lecture, but fail to expand on the lecture by providing explanations or summaries; or the Notes demonstrate strong engagement with the material, but make one or more mistakes about critical points.


Notes are incomplete or misrepresent multiple critical points.  Notes provide only what was written on the board, power point, or both, with little to no additions OR present mostly erroneous information.  Notes show little to no engagement with the material.


No Notes; Notes that are so unclear they are incomprehensible; or Notes that appear to be from a different lecture


minus two-thirds of a letter grade for each 24 hours late