There are several different ways of taking notes in school. Some prefer to take a structured approach using an outline, others prefer a visual method employing mindmaps, and still others use no structure at all. However, there is one note taking technique that builds a useful set of notes (for exam prep) while simultaneously teaching you how to convert your reading exercises into critical analysis exercises. The technique is called “Cornell Note Taking”.
Cornell Note-Taking is a system for taking, organizing and reviewing notes devised by Prof. Walter Pauk of Cornell University in the 1950s. It requires very little preparation work which makes it ideal for note taking in class. The images below describe how to setup your note paper.
All lecture or homework notes go into the main note-taking area. The smaller area on the left side is for ‘keywords’ and ‘questions’ directly associated with notes. In other words, you generate keywords and questions based on the notes you just recorded. When reviewing the notes, a general summary of the notes you have on that page should be recorded in the bottom section.
Generally, the system encourages students to reflect on their notes by summarizing them briefly in their own words. When reviewing your notes it’s useful to reorder objects on the page when necessary. The reordering can be done very easily if you take your notes digitally (desktop typing, iPad or other Tablet device). But, with the creative use of ‘arrows’ and different ink colors, you can accomplish the same thing with handwritten notes. The goal is to turn the notes into a mental tool that makes reviewing content logical, clear, coherent,… for YOU.
If you use a device (desktop, iPad, or other Tablet device), you can get a blank template by conducting a web search for “Blank Cornell Notes Template”. You can also make your own template by dividing a sheet of paper in accordance with the images above. Take a photo of that paper with a smart phone, tablet, etc. and convert the image into a ‘PDF’ document. You can type onto a PDF document with a mainstream PDF annotator made for your device. When you need another page for notes, just duplicate the original blank Cornell Notes template and add it to your file to continue writing. If you wish to handwrite instead, just print paper copies of the blank Cornell Notes template to insert into your notebook.