Methods Of Note Taking

A. Cornell Note-Taking System

  1. Draw a line down your paper 2 1/2 inches from the left side to create a 2 1/2 inch margin for noting key words and a 6-inch area on the right for sentence summaries.
  2. Record your notes in the 6-inch area on the right side of your paper during class. Use your own words and make sure you have included the main ideas and significant supporting details. Be brief.
  3. Review your summary sentences and underline key words. Write these key words in the column on the left side of your paper. These words can be used to stimulate your memory of the material for later study.
  4. The Cornell method can be used for taking notes on classroom lectures or textbooks. The following chart explains the procedure and gives a visual display of the results.
Class Notes The Cornell Method

The following example applies the Cornell Method of note-taking to a lecture on the circulatory system. Notice the use of the sentence summaries and the addition of the highlighted key words.

Circulatory System

Circulatory System Note Taking

B. Mapping

Mapping is a visual system of condensing material to show relationships and importance. A map is a diagram of the major points, with their significant sub-points, that support a topic. The purpose of mapping as an organizing strategy is to improve memory by grouping material in a highly visual way.

The map provides a quick reference for over-viewing a lecture or a textbook chapter.

How to Map

The following steps describe the procedure to use in mapping:

  1. Draw a circle or a box in the middle of a page, and in it write the subject or topic of the material or lecture.
  2. Determine the main ideas that support the subject and write them on the lines radiating from the central circle or box.
  3. Determine the significant details and write them on lines attached to each main idea. The number of details you include will depend on the material and your purpose.

Maps are not restricted to any one pattern, but can be formed in a variety of creative shapes as the following diagrams illustrate:
Shape Illustration Note Taking

The following diagram illustrates how the lecture on the circulatory system could be mapped. Notice how the visual display emphasizes the groups of ideas supporting the topic.
Circulatory System Chart Note Nating

C. Outline

  • Start main points at the margin.
    • Indent secondary and supporting details.
      • Further indent major subgroups.

  • Definitions, for example, should always start at the margin.
  • When a list of terms is presented, the heading should also start at the margin.
    • Each item in the series should be set in slightly from the margin.
    • Examples, too, should be indented under the point they illustrate.

  • When the lecturer moves from one idea to another, show this shift with white space by skipping a line or two.