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Study Skills: Note-Taking Strategies

Note Taking Strategies

There are several methods of note taking you can use, so give them a try and see what you like best!  Not all note taking methods are appropriate for all situations, so be sure you are using the most appropriate method for the content.  Regardless of which style you use in your notes, here are a few tips:

  • Make clear and accurate notes - write clearly and legibly
  • Be prepared for class - have pens, paper, highlighters, etc.
  • Do your prep work - complete pre-reading or any prior assigned work
  • Compare your notes with those of your classmates - you may have heard something in a different way
  • Minimize distractions in class - sit away from windows, doors, or heating/cooling vents
  • Organize your notes - by date, class period, and subject
  • Use abbreviations and symbols - & (and), w/o (without), eg (for example), ie (that is)
  • Review your notes - within 24 hours of class, before your next lecture, and prior to your next exam
  • Write down your questions - don't forget to ask your instructor



The Outline Method:

This is probably the best known method of taking notes.  In this method, topics and sub-topics are identified by indenting and numbering or using a bullet point to set off new ideas.


  • Highlights key points of a lecture in a logical way
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to review
  • Structured


  • Not suitable for formulas or charts
  • Does not work well if the lecture is not structured




The Cornell Method:

For this method, divide your paper into three sections:  a 2.5" section on the left side, a 6" section on the right side, and a 2" section at the bottom.  During class, take notes in the 6" section on the right.  After class, write the main points in the left section, even with the corresponding notes so you can find each section or point easily.  After class, use the bottom section to summarize the main ideas and highlight them.  Click Here for a full explanation.


  • Quick way to review and organize notes
  • Summarizes information systematically
  • Helps to extract the main ideas
  • Shorter review time


  • Requires Prep Time
  • Requires time for review/summary



The Mapping Method:

This method is great when there are relationships between the topics in your notes.  In this method, you organize your notes by dividing them into different branches.  Write the main topic at the top or middle of the map.  If you write the main topic at the top, you can divide the sub-topics as you move down the paper.  If you write the main topic in the middle, surround it with sub-topics.  You can then further divide your sub-topics.


  • Visually appealing
  • Concise
  • Easy editing


  • Might run out of space
  • Placement of notes must be correct




Blocking Notes:

This method is especially good for electronic note-taking, such as taking notes on an i-Pad.  Notes for different topics are placed in separate boxes, which can be rearranged and re-sized once you are finished.  It is also helpful if your class or lecture is broken up into different sections.


  • Organizes notes into boxes
  • Allows you to focus on one box at a time
  • Visually appealing
  • Good for electronic notes


  • Doesn't work well if the lecture topics can't be grouped
  • Can take extra time to group notes



The Charting Method:

This note-taking method is great for facts and statistics.  The information is organized in rows and columns for comparable data.  This method takes time, so it might be effective when you are re-writing your notes.


  • Information is structured
  • Great for review
  • Comparable
  • Information can be memorized quickly


  • Time consuming
  • Not always good for in-class notes
  • Not good for all information