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Note-Taking Strategies: Various Methods

Cornell Notes Method

The Cornell Method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes without laborious recopying. After writing the notes in the main space, use the left-hand space to label each idea and detail with a key word or "cue."

Method - Rule your paper with a 2 ½ inch margin on the left leaving a six-inch area on the right in which to make notes. During class, take down information in the six-inch area. When the instructor moves to a new point, skip a few lines.

After class, as much as possible, complete phrases and sentences. For every significant bit of information, write a cue in the left margin.

To review, cover your notes with a card, leaving the cues exposed. Say the cue out loud; then, say as much as you can of the material underneath the card. When you have said as much as you can, move the card, and see if what you said matches what is written. If you can say it, you know it.



2 ½”






Reduce ideas and facts to concise jottings and summaries as cues for Reciting, Reviewing, and Reflecting.











Record the lecture as fully and as meaningfully as possible.


















Question in the Margin Method

In order to learn, the information from lecture and from reading must become your own.   Note taking assists reinforcing memory.  This note-taking style was created by Carolyn Hopper using the concepts of memory techniques, functions of learning, and the Cornell Method.  There are six steps:

Step 1 – Record what is said.

Step 2 – Question – after class, generate questions based on your notes.

Step 3 – Recite – cover your notes, and ask the questions; then, recite out loud your answers to the questions you wrote.

Step 4 – Reflect – try to make the information personal.

Step 5 – Review – review notes again; daily reviews and longer weekly review are musts.

Step 6 – Summarize.



If your instructor says:

Recitation is the most powerful way of transferring information from short-term to long-term memory.  Four reasons recitation is so powerful that it makes you participate in your learning.  You must understand the material in order to explain it in your own words.  And, it gives you immediate feedback as to how much you actually know.



Write questions here – these questions will be answered in your notes.  By taking the time to take notes in this style – you are creating study sheets while taking notes.



What principle is best for transferring information from short-term memory to long-term memory?


What are four reasons why recitation works?

Record Lecture Here


Recitation is the most powerful way to get short-term memory to long-term


Recitation = makes me pay attention

                = makes me participate

                = makes me understand – I have to understand – must put

                                in my own words

                = feedback – if I get it or not



Use this space here to condense the notes you have taken in your own words.  You will write the summary after you write the questions, recite, and reflect.

Reciting information is a useful way of processing information from short-term memory to long-term memory.  When I recite, I have to pay attention, participate, and understand, so I will get immediate feedback.  This is a powerful process for learning.

Outlining Method

Dash or indented outlining is usually best except for some science classes, such as physics or math.

  • The information which is most general begins at the left with each more specific group of facts indented with spaces to the right.
  • The relationships between the different parts are carried out through indenting.
  • No numbers, letters, or Roman numerals are needed.

Listen and, then, write in points in an organized pattern based on space indention. Place major points farthest to the left. Indent each more specific point to the right. Levels of importance will be indicated by distance away from the major point. Indention can be as simple or as complex as labeling the indentations with Roman numerals or decimals. Markings are not necessary as space relationships will indicate the major/minor points.

Example - 

Extrasensory perception

__ definition: means of perceiving without use of sense organs.

__ three kinds –

__ telepathy: sending messages
__ clairvoyance: forecasting the future
__ psychokinesis: perceiving events external to situation

__ current status –

__ no current research to support or refute
__ few psychologists say impossible
__ door open to future 

Sentence Method

Write every new thought, fact or topic on a separate line, numbering as you progress.

Three Examples -

Example 1:

A revolution is any occurrence that affects other aspects of life, such as economic life, social life, and so forth. Therefore, revolutions cause change. (See page 29 to 30 in your text about this.)

Sample Notes:                                       

Revolution - occurrence that affects other aspects of life: e.g., econ., socl., etc. C.f. text, pp. 29-30


Example 2:

Melville did not try to represent life as it really was. The language of Ahab, Starbuck, and Ishmael, for instance, was not that of real life.

Sample Notes:

Mel didn't repr. life as was; e.g., lang. of Ahab, etc. not of real life.


Example 3:

At first, Freud tried conventional, physical methods of treatment such as giving baths, massages, rest cures, and similar aids. But when these failed, he tried techniques of hypnosis that he had seen used by Jean-Martin Charcot. Finally, he borrowed an idea from Jean Breuer and used direct verbal communication to get an un-hypnotized patient to reveal unconscious thoughts.

Sample Notes:

Freud 1st -- used phys. trtment; e.g., baths, etc. This fld. 2nd -- used hypnosis (fr. Charcot) Finally -- used dirct vrb. commun. (fr. Breuer) - got unhynop, patnt to reveal uncons. thoughts.

TLQR Note Taking Method


  • Listening takes energy.
  • Listening effectively requires you to get intellectually involved.
  • Try to focus your attention and forget about other issues or distractions.

Look and Listen

  • Look at the speaker.
    • Mannerisms will give extra clues.
    • Looking helps focus attention.
  • Listen to the speaker
    • Be selective. Some things are more important than others.
    •  Be alert for speaker emphasis through:
      • Tone or gesture,                                            
      • Repetition,
      • Use of cue words, such as remember, most important, etc.,
      • Illustration(s) on board,
      • Reference to text, and  
      • Note especially new words and ideas.
  •  Note those ideas which conflict with your own picture of the world.
    • "Odd" ideas are difficult to understand initially and require extra effort.
    • You remember things which support your existing concepts, and forget those things which disagree.



  • Nothing will generate interest as much as an appropriate question.
  • Unusual or different ideas will be difficult to understand initially and will require extra effort since you have a tendency to remember what you accept and forget with which you disagree.


  • Glance back over material from time to time to see if a pattern is emerging, if consistency is being maintained, etc.
  • If possible, clarify points during or after the lecture.
    • Give the instructor a reasonable chance to make the point clear.
    • Avoid sidetracking the instructor.  You could possible lose out on vital information.

The 5 R's Method

Record.  During the lecture, record in the main column as many meaningful facts and ideas as you can. Write legibly.

Reduce.  As soon after as possible, summarize these ideas and facts concisely in the recall column. Summarizing clarifies meanings and relationships, reinforces continuity, and strengthens memory. Also, it is a way of preparing for examinations gradually and well ahead of time.

Recite.  Now cover the column, using only your jottings in the recall column as cues or "flags" to help you recall, as fully as you can, say over facts and ideas of the lecture, not mechanically, but in your own words and with as much appreciation of the meaning as you can. Then, uncovering your notes, verify what you have said. This procedure helps to transfer the facts and ideas of your long term memory.

Reflect.  Reflective students distill their opinions from their notes. They make such opinions the starting point for their own musings upon the subjects they are studying. Such musings aid them in making sense out of their courses and academic experiences by finding relationships among them. Reflective students continually label and index their experiences and ideas, put them into structures, outlines, summaries, and frames of reference. They rearrange and file them. Best of all, they have an eye for the vital – for the essential. Unless ideas are placed in categories, and are taken up from time to time for re-examination, they will become inert and soon forgotten.

Review.  If you will spend 10 minutes every week or so in a quick review of these notes, you will retain most of what you have learned, and you will be able to use your knowledge currently to greater and greater effectiveness.   

Mapping Method

Mapping is a method that uses comprehension/concentration skills and evolves in a note taking form which relates each fact or idea to every other fact or idea. Mapping is a graphic representation of the content of a lecture. It is a method that maximizes active participation, affords immediate knowledge as to its understanding, and emphasizes critical thinking.

Example - 

Charting Method

If the lecture format is distinct (such as chronological), you may set up your paper by drawing columns and labeling appropriate headings in a table.  Determine the categories to be covered in the lecture. Set up your paper in advance by columns headed by these categories. As you listen to the lecture, record information (words, phrases, main ideas, etc.) into the appropriate category.

Example - Chart format for a history