If you’re like me, note-taking may be a futile task; no matter how hard you try, you wind up with a jumbled mess. You want to take good notes so that you can use them to study later, but cannot seem to find a system that works for you. The Cornell Note-Taking System (or a variation of it) might be your saving grace. My eighth grade English teacher introduced me to this way of taking notes, and I have adapted it to my own learning style. I have used it ever since, and it has gotten me through high school, college, and my career thus far. It may not be for everyone, but if note-taking is something you struggle with, I highly recommend giving it a shot.
What is it?
The Cornell Note-Taking System, or the Cornell Method, was developed by Walter Pauk who was an education professor at Cornell University. To take Cornell notes, first draw a line down your sheet of paper, a third of the way in. This gives you a skinny column on the left side, known as the Cue-Column, and a thick column on the right, known as the Note-Taking Column. Once your page is set, it is time to run through the five steps of note-taking, as described by the Learning Strategies Center of Cornell University:
- Record – Use the Note-Taking Column to record your lecture notes.
- Question – Formulate questions or cue words, and write them in the Cue-Column.
- Recite – Cover the Note-Taking Column and quiz yourself on the questions or cue words.
- Reflect – Reflect on the significance of the material.
- Review – Write a brief summary of the notes (about a paragraph) at the bottom of the page.
When you’re finished, you will end up with something like this (hopefully with much better handwriting and more interesting/accurate information):
The way that I actually take notes slightly differs from the Cornell Method. I write key-words, questions, or section headings (if I’m taking notes on a reading) in the Cue-Column as I go. I use the Note-Taking Column to fill in details about each subject. This method works well digitally as well as manually. Below is an example of some notes I typed up using OneNote:
When I’m finished taking notes, I still have a really great Cue-Column and can easily transfer the information over to index cards.
The Cornell Note-Taking System makes studying easier. If note-taking is something that you feel you can improve on, I highly recommend giving this method a chance. You can even adapt it like I did, and still wind up with a clean, finished product.