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Tips and tools for taking better notes!

There is not one correct way to take notes. Rather, there are a variety of methods that students may find helpful. Regardless of your method, stay consistent and organized. Click on the options below to learn more.  

Choose Your Format

Handwritten Notes

This approach has significant positives.  In class, you cannot write fast enough to record everything the professor is saying, so you must decide which way to summarize the key points.  Doing so forces you to think about the information, which in turn promotes greater understanding.

This method can also be effective if your professor posts their lectures online ahead of time. You can print off the lecture outline and add your own notes as you listen. 

Digital Notes

This approach also has some positives. You can keep your notes more organized as editing your writing in a Word or Google document is easier than doing so in a notebook. You can also use a program like OneNote to organize notes from each of your classes in one tidy, organized space. 

If you feel comfortable typing on a computer, you can record ideas faster than doing so by hand. Still, this can potentially be a negative. Students should not mindlessly copy notes from a textbook or slides displayed in class. While in class, they should listen to the professor and try to summarize their ideas using key vocabulary.  

Ultimately, you can try both formats and see what feels more comfortable. In the end, the goal is to listen to what your professor is saying and summarize the main ideas using key words from the lecture. 

Choose Your Method

The Outline Method

The outline method of note-taking begins with a main topic written on the left margin of your paper or word processer. You then move to the next line below, indent, and write a subpoint. You then go to the next line below that, and use a bullet point to offer additional details about the sub-topic. Repeat the process for additional topics. Check out the videos posted below for a visual breakdown of this style.

The Cornell Method

For the Cornell method, begin by writing the title/topic and date at the topic of the notebook or digital file 

Next, divide the paper (see the template linked below). Class notes will go in the large column on the right using the outline method. Next, add keywords and questions in the left-hand column roughly across from where those ideas came up in the right column. Finally, summarize the key points from the lecture in the bottom section. This should be in your own words and will help you to reflect on the lecture and think about how the information all fits together. 

See a full guide on the Cornell Method here.

Download your own Cornell Method template here.

Check out the following videos for additional note-taking tips!

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