Noteworthy Ways to Make your Notes Count

Did you know? Taking organized lecture and textbook notes can enhance academic success!  If you don’t take notes…start!  It will help you stay engaged and interested in lecture and when reading your textbook.  Looking to advance your note taking approach?  Check out 3 of the most common note taking methods – Cornell Notes, Outlining, & Charting below & review our list of Note Taking Do’s & Don’ts!

Cornell Note Taking Methodnote

Developed in 1949 at Cornell University, Cornell is a multi-step process useful for several different types of courses.  Many law schools swear by this method and research suggests using Cornell notes can help improve academic performance.

Highlights of the Cornell Method:

  • Helpful for  taking lecture & textbook notes
  • Works with all courses
  • Use as a study guide & to practice recall of information

How to Take Cornell Notes

1) Prepare Notes

  • Draw a vertical line about 2” from the left to create space for notes & cues
  • Draw a horizontal line about 2 inches from the bottom of page to create space for summary
  • Write date, Chapter and/or Section Title & page numbers at top

2) Write Notes ( remember to leave some space between main topics)

3) Rephrase Notes: Within 24 hours, write in your own words a summary of notes in “Summary” section

4) Fill in Cue Column: Identify categories, line up key concepts or add questions that correspond  to notes

5) Self-Test/Study: Cover your notes.  Use the words & questions in the cue column to practice recall

6) Review/Reflect: Review your notes regularly & consider –

    • Making connections among topics & to what you already know
    • Applying concepts
    • What the information doesn’t explain
    • How it might be asked in an exam

Check out this video on how to prepare your notebook page for Cornell!

note2.jpgOutlining Method

This is a simple note taking method that can be easily added to your note taking arsenal.  This method organizes information into main topics, sub-topics, and other supporting points.  Indentations are made to separate each category.  The main topics, or general information, are located closest to the left margin of the paper with sub-topics and other supporting points being put towards the right. You can get creative with it using different style bullets, letters, or numbering, but the important part is the indentation. This style of note taking is great for reviewing for exam prep.

Charting Method

This is a method of note taking that is most useful for information that can be easily categorized.  You can use this method to break main concepts down into categories, and can also be used to separate similarities and differences, etc.  Charting is done by drawing a table, usually before your lecture starts.  This way you don’t waste valuable class time.

Note Taking Do’s & Don’ts


  • Look over previous notes before class
  • Write down all examples & things professor provides & writes down
  • Attend all classes
  • Use abbreviated words to make things easier
  • Keep notes organized
  • Skip lines to fill in missing material later
  • Use a combination of note taking methods when appropriate
  • Pay attention to verbal cues from the professor
  • Keep notes legible
  • Ask questions
  • Turn your professor’s statements into phrases & points
  • Start a new page for each lecture
  • Include date of lecture/notes & Chapter
  • Review notes within 24 hours: add information, highlight important topics, or reorganize/rewrite


  • Write every single word on a power point slide
  • Give up if the lecture is moving too fast
  • Abbreviate every word
  • Doodle or “disengage” from taking notes
  • get hung up on spelling
  • think you will remember it all and choose not to take notes

Find tips for taking PowerPoint lecture notes & more here!

There are many different types of note taking methods out there.  Every student’s mind works differently so feel free to experiment with a few different note taking method and then use the ones that work best for your style of learning.  The important part is that you are taking effective and organized notes that can be referenced later.

Academic Achievement Center
Gina Sabo – Graduate Assistant
Jennifer Wendt & Jeremy Boettinger – Learning Specialists


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