A List of Notetaking Methods

In college students are responsible for their own learning.

Effective note-taking emphasizes comprehension of a presentation or lecture, rather than just recording sentences word for word. Merely recording every word spoken does not aid in memory, nor is it possible to write as fast as someone is speaking. Successful note-taking strategies also involve querying and reviewing the information and concepts from a lecture. A variety of note-taking strategies are available to suit different styles of learning. Most of these methods can also apply to taking notes from a book.

1 Outlining

Perhaps the most common note-taking method, outlining involves recording the major points of a lecture, followed by minor points. These notes do not require full sentences, and usually start with a bullet point or hyphen. When taking notes on a laptop, a note-taker can press “Enter” to begin a new major point and “Enter” and then “Tab” to indicate a sub-point. Note-takers can skip lines to show a shift in topic.

2 The Cornell Method

The Cornell method involves a fair amount of organization but pays off in the long run. Note-takers draw a line a couple of inches from the left side of the paper, recording the lecture on the right side of the line. Afterward, the note-taker writes key words and phrases in the left-hand column, paraphrasing in her own words where possible. Effective note-takers then review the notes in the left-hand column for a test or exam.

3 Split Page Method

The split page method combines outlining and column-making. Note-takers draw a line down the center of the page and record major points from a lecture or book on the left-hand side, and minor points and details on the right-hand side. This method clearly delineates major and minor information.

4 Mapping

Visual learners find mapping an effective note-taking strategy. When mapping, note-takers write the main idea in a bubble in the center of the page, and locate minor ideas in branching bubbles or boxes. Mapping can follow any pattern of the note-taker’s choosing.

5 Charting

For organized note-takers, categorizing notes into columns such as “How?” “Advantages,” “Disadvantages” and “When to Use It?” helps readers study the significance of the information they are recording and when they will need it. This method helps when a note-taker needs to record a data-heavy lecture, such as a science or history lecture.

6 Group Note-Taking

Sometimes note-taking fails because the note-taker is tired or bored. Group note-taking solves this problem by rotating note-taking responsibility among a group of people, who each agree to take notes on a different day and then share them with the other members.

Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.