For those of you who really couldn’t care less which chewed biro you take notes with, look away now.  This blog post is for serious stationery aficionados.

There are lots of study techniques that can help you to be an effective student, but let’s take a step back from the cerebral for a moment, and look at something that quite a lot of people get excited about – stationery!

Is a free pen a good pen?

Some of my favourite pens have been freebies, so let’s not get negative about free pens per se.  Free pens are everywhere when you come to university; you’ll be offered several every day for the first two weeks.  Whilst they are useful, they might not be the kind of pen that you want to make notes with all day, every day.  Skills@Library recommend taking several different pens with you on a typical day at university.  If you’ve got a heavy timetable and need to make a lot of notes, your grip will become quite uncomfortable if you use the same pen all day.

Tip: Go to the stationery shop in the Student’s Union, and try out a variety of pens.  If after a few weeks you find that one of your pens is your perfect match, go back and buy some more!

Note pads

It’s probably a safe bet that from your first days in school as a child you’ve been given a series of lined exercise books and notepads to write on.  Everyone likes these, right?  Well, maybe not actually.  Those red margins and pale blue lines are there to keep your writing linear, with your words marching along in neat straight lines.  But let’s say you want to shake things up a bit, what are your options?

Importantly, you want paper that’s going to stay flat without you having to control it with your free hand. For this reason, little notebooks are pretty useless for serious note taking.  They might look cute, but leave them for shopping lists and doodles, you just can’t use something fiddly properly in a lecture theatre.  For academic note taking I’d suggest going no smaller than A4 with your note pad.

My favourite alternative to the hole punched, red margined, lined note pads we’re all used to, is a sketch pad.  You can get some excellent sketch pads, usually with a wire spine so that all of your pages will be flat, and they have some real benefits for study:

  1. No lines! You can write however you want to in a sketch pad.
  2. Go landscape, ditch portrait! Turning your paper to the horizontal opens up a whole new world of note taking possibilities.  Think drawing and mindmaps!
  3. No hole punched edges! You don’t have to file every page of your notes in a folder.  You could create a system of individual note books for different modules, or use different coloured pens for each module.
  4. Go big! You can buy sketch pads in all sorts of sizes, so if you feel really extravagant you could invest in a nice big A3 pad – just make sure you can get a bit of extra elbow room in a lecture theatre.
Post-its, a blessing or a curse?

A stack of post-its might seem an essential for anyone who loves their stationery, but they can be a hazard.  Here are our post-it rules:

  1. Never write anything that’s going to be important for more than 48 hours on a post-it. Post-its have an annoying habit of becoming lost, trodden on, binned or unstuck outside of this time frame.
  2. Always remove them from books when you’ve finished with them, as they can cause quite a bit of damage if left behind.
  3. Post-its are most useful for: shopping lists, to do lists, planning presentations or points in an essay.
  4. Don’t buy post-its with pictures on them, you won’t be able to read what’s written on them.
Will stationery make me more organised?

I’m afraid not, sorry.  Having nice stationery to work with might make you feel positive about study though, and that’s not a bad feeling to help you get motivated.

Oh I forgot to mention pencils!  Another time maybe…