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READING AND STUDY SKILLS: NOTE TAKING

THE CORNELL SYSTEM
The Cornell system for taking notes is designed to save time but yet be highly efficient.
There is no rewriting or retyping of your notes. It is a "DO IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE"
system.

1. First Step - PREPARATION

Use a large, loose-leaf notebook. Use only one side of the paper (you then can
lay your notes out to see the direction of a lecture). Draw a vertical line 2 1/2
inches from the left side of you paper. This is the recall column. Notes will be
taken to the right of this margin. Later key words or phrases can be written in
the recall column.

2. Second Step - DURING THE LECTURE

Record notes in paragraph form. Capture general ideas, not illustrative ideas.
Skip lines to show end of ideas or thoughts. Using abbreviations will save time.
Write legibly.

3. Third Step - AFTER THE LECTURE

Read through your notes and make it more legible if necessary. Now use the
column. Jot down ideas or key words which give you the idea of the lecture.
(REDUCE) You will have to reread the lecturer's ideas and reflect in your own
words. Cover up the right-hand portion of your notes and recite the general
ideas and concepts of the lecture. Overlap your notes showing only recall
columns and you have your review.
Subject: Notetaking_____________ Date: 9/20/04_____________

Main Ideas Details

• Can be used to provide an outline of the course,
chapter, or lecture.
• Organized by main ideas and details.
• Can be as detailed as necessary.
• Sequential-- take notes as they are given by
instructor or text in an orderly fashion.
• After class, write a summary of what you
learned to clarify and reinforce learning and to
Cornell assist retention.
notes • Can be used as study tool:
1. Define terms or explain concepts listed on
the left side.
2. Identify the concept or term based on its
definition on the right side.

• Can be used to provide a "big picture" of the
course, chapter, or lecture.
• Organized by main ideas and sub-topics.
• Limited in how much detail you can represent.
Semantic map or web • Simultaneous - you can use this method for
instructors who jump around from topic to
topic.
• After class, you will probably need to "translate"
notes into a Cornell format.

• Can be used as a study tool -- to get a quick
overview and to determine whether you need
more information or need to concentrate your
study on specific topics.

Summary:
There are a couple of ways that you can take notes. The Cornell method is best
when the information is given in a sequential, orderly fashion and allows for
more detail. The semantic web/map method works best for instructors who
skip around from topic to topic, and provides a "big picture" when you're
previewing materials or getting ready to study for a test.
WHY TAKE NOTES?

• Useful record
• Helps memory
• Helps understanding
• Helps writing
• Helps revision ---

Provided your notes are user friendly!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD SET OF NOTES?

To be user friendly, notes should be:

• Clear and easy to read
• Easy to understand and follow
• Not too wordy
• Key points stand out
• Visually appealing
• Well structured
• Well organized and easy to access

NOTE TAKING IN LECTURES

Follow that lecture!

• Think ahead – what is the lecture likely to be about? What do you
already know about it? Do you have any questions or concerns?

• Read or skim a book on the subject beforehand. Look for themes, issues,
topics and headings. Look up any unfamiliar technical words.

• Glance through any notes from the previous lecture.

• Write down questions you want answered – leave space to answer them
in the lecture.

• Arrive in good time to catch introduction and any advance handouts.

• Listen for clues as to structure, main themes.

• Do not try and write down everything the lecturer says or everything on
the board/OHP.
• Concentrate on listening and understanding – rephrase in your head

• Listen for repetition, backtracking, paraphrase and digression, e.g.
anecdote.

• Listen with a questioning ear – ask questions of the lecturer, or for you to
answer later.

• Listen/watch for clues as to where the lecturer is going – get to know
individual lecturers’ styles.

• Reflect afterwards and tackle follow up work.

What to note and how.

• Find a system that suits you – try out with a TV program.

See examples of different styles of notes below.

• Use one side - leave space for later additions.

• Note main themes, important points, theories.

• Note references and questions that are raised.

• Note your own thoughts and issues.

• Don’t note all examples, anecdotes etc.

• Be brief – use key words and abbreviations.

• Avoid details you can follow up afterwards.

After the lecture

• Review your notes soon after the lecture

Fill in gaps.

Clarify and amend where necessary.

Tidy up – draw boxes round different sections; highlight key
points; highlight quotations in a different color; underline
headings; use numbers, letters, lines etc to link connected ideas;
circle stray information and link with arrow to where it belongs.
Rework if necessary.
Cornell 6-R Notetaking Method

The Cornell 6-R Notetaking method breaks the process down into components,
but it is really an ongoing, dynamic process. The value of taking notes this way
is that it organizes information and prepares you for tests from the very
beginning, and saves time.

Record
Write down important facts, names, dates, concepts, theories,
procedures and other information in the column on the right.
Reduce
Summarize the main ideas with key words or questions and write these
in the column on the left.
Recite
Cover the details section, and ask yourself the question in the main idea
column, or formulate a question based upon the concept phrases in the
left column. How well could you remember what you wrote down? Keep
track of what you need to learn.
Reflect
Reflect upon the ideas in the notes, including how they are applied, the
implications of conclusions or data, and the meaning of examples or
cases discussed. Search for connections between ideas. You give meaning
to what you are learning by reflecting upon it. Record your thoughts,
observations, questions and unresolved issues in the lower section of the
page for the summary.
Review
Review your notes again immediately after taking them. If the notes are
from lecture, fill in any blanks; clarify any missing or partial
information. Recite and reflect again to test yourself. Plan spaced time
for review of your notes each week.
Recapitulate
Summarize what you have gone over in your notes again. Write a
summary of each page of notes in the lower section of the page. This
will help the information to be stored in long-term memory.
Cue Words
Professors will use cue words that tell you what to expect.
Emphasis
-- "This is important", "you need to know", "to emphasize" highlight
important information.
Organization
-- "The topic is", "first of all…then…next", "in conclusion" cue listeners or
readers to a sequence.
Non-verbal
-- Writing words on the overhead or board, speaking in a different tone
or speed, changing body posture are cues to indicate something of
importance should be noted. Online written lectures lack non-verbal
cues so it is especially important to pay close attention to the verbal
cues of emphasis and organization in the readings.
Abbreviations
Devise your own abbreviation codes tailored to each discipline.
Generic examples
w/ = with, ind. = individual, & = and, ? = question,
info. = information, e.g. = for example, gov’t. = government,
i.e. = such as, ref = reference, diff. = difference.