Methods for Taking Notes

Students tend to take notes on their computers more and more nowadays, but studies show that putting pen to paper in class is much more effective. But are your written notes always a mess? Try out these popular note taking methods and find one that works for you. 

Cornell Method

This method originated at Cornell University, which is how it got its name. It has a wonderful format in which you can condense, organize, and reflect on notes as you write them, saving you valuable time later Cornell noteswhen you need to study for a test. You’ll want to divide up your paper according to the graphic to the left. During class, take down information quickly in the six-inch area–don’t be afraid to abbreviate and skip filler words! When the instructor moves to a new point, skip a few lines. After class, use the left-hand space to label each idea and detail with a key word or “cue.”

To review your notes taken with the Cornell method, cover the right-hand column with a card, leaving the cues exposed. Speaking out loud, state the cue and as much as you can of the material underneath the card as you can, then move the card and see if what you said matches what is written. If you can say it, you know it.

The Cornell method is great because it provides an organized and systematic process for recording and reviewing notes. The simple, efficient format lets you pull out major concept and ideas with ease and saves you time and effort later. Click here for an informative video about the Cornell method. 

Outlining Method

The outlining method is best used if your lecture is presented in an outline-oriented way (aka, if the professor organizes lectures well using headings, Outline notes
sub-headings, etc). It’s also good if the professor takes things a little more slowly, because you’ll need enough time during class to think about and make organizational decisions.

As you can see in the graphic, the major points are on the left, with more specific groups of facts indented with spaces to the right. You’ll need to listen first, then write points in an organized pattern like the one illustrated above. The idea is that levels of importance are indicated by distance away from the major point.

This can be a very straightforward and well-organized system when done correctly. The outlining method records content as well as relationships, as well as reducing editing and being easy to review by turning the main points into questions. It does require more thought during class, however, so some may find this distracts them from the lecture, and it can be harder to use if the lecture is too fast. This is the note taking method I always use, and it keeps things very well-organized for me. 

Mapping Method

The mapping method works wonders for lectures that have a lot of content. You will need to exercise your comprehension and concentration skills to Mapping notesdevelop your note taking form in order to relate each fact/idea to every other fact/idea in the lecture. Your notes will end up being an interesting graphic representation of the lecture’s content, so this method maximizes active participation and emphasizes critical thinking.

This format will help you visually track the lecture under any circumstances, and it is easy to edit your notes later by adding numbers, marks, and color coding if you wish. Review will call for you to restructure thought processes, which will force you to check your understanding. One disadvantage of this method is that depending on your professor’s level of organization, changes from major points to facts in the lecture may not be immediately apparent to you. As you can see from the example at left, you can make your map look like whatever you want!

Charting Method

This method can be very useful for any type of lecture. You should start by dividing your paper into columns. With each new category of information introduced in the lecture, you will title a new columnCharting notes appropriately and record information there (words, phrases, main ideas, or whatever works for you).

The charting method works because it helps you track the conversational element of the lecture. It is superior to ordinary notes in terms of organization because you have space to go back and put information in the appropriate column if the lecturer returns to a previous topic after a digression. These kinds of notes are also easy to review, whether you are trying to memorize facts or study comparisons and relationships between different topics.

You should use this method if your professor moves through lectures quickly, or if you want to spend less time editing and reviewing your notes later on. This method has few disadvantages once you get the hang of using it, but you must be able to follow what’s being said at all times, so it may not be the best choice for a class in which you may get confused or lost. 

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *