Good note taking comes with practice. As you improve, you may find that you prefer one system of note taking over another or that a certain method works better for a certain class. The charting method of taking notes is good when you need to place related information into different categories, arrange information in a certain order or when you want to compare the relationships between different ideas.

Create Columns

Before you begin taking notes, like before class, divide a piece of paper into separate columns. A regular piece of notebook paper works well for the charting method because of its horizontal lines. Your first column should begin after the red vertical line on the left side of the paper. Have the last column end at the red vertical line on the right side of the paper. The number of columns that you should use depends on the types of facts and information presented.

Label Each Column

Label the top of each column with the type of information that you’re going to record. In a history class, for example, you may use the labels “Date,” “Person,” “Country of Origin” and “Significance.” For a math class, you may use labels like “Equation,” “Purpose” and “Example.” If you’re taking notes for a class, the syllabus and the previous reading assignment may offer clues about the types and number of labels that you’ll need for your chart. When you’re taking notes from a reading assignment, determine the number and types of labels that you’ll need for your chart by looking at the information in the text.

Record the Information

During class or as you read, write down the information that you learn under the appropriate column on your paper. For instance, if your history lecture reviews important explorers, you may write “1492” in the “Date” column, “Christopher Columbus” in the “Person” column, “Italy” in the “Country of Origin” column and “Traveled to the New World and established settlements on Hispaniola” in the “Significance” column. In the “Significance” column, you may also note that Columbus traveled to the Americas on behalf of the Spanish Empire and that the boats on his first voyage were the “Niña,” “Pinta” and “Santa María.” In a math class, you may write “d = rt” in the “Equation” column, “Find the uniform rate or distance; distance = rate x time” in the “Purpose” column and “20 miles = 10 miles per minute x 2 minutes” in the “Example column.”


The charting method of taking notes is advantageous because it minimizes the amount of writing that you have to do while taking notes because you only write the most relevant information, according to the California Polytechnic State University. The organization of your charted notes can also make it simpler for you to identify facts and compare relationships. At the same time, the University of Redlands shares that this method may be difficult to execute if you don’t know about the type of content that your teacher will cover during a lecture.