Friday, April 10, 2015

Note-taking Organization

Note-taking Organization
April 10th, 2015
Grace Brewer

       The benefits of keeping notes are numerous. Skillful note-taking will improve your concentration, retention and comprehension.Well-trained note-takers develop their own strategies and methods for recording and revising information.

        Effective note-taking includes a few key components. Your main goals are to identify the purpose of the text, recognize main ideas, and paraphrase essential information in your own words.

Effective Note-Taking

Be prepared
Your work area should be clean and quiet with a hard, flat surface to write on. Dedicate a notebook for each individual subject or course. Make sure you have several writing utensils at hand. Notes should be taken in pencil, while highlighters and pens highlight key information during revision.

Find a system of note-taking you prefer
There are many note-taking methods you can employ. You can use your own shorthand abbreviations. Personalize your notes with colored pens or even substitute flashcards instead of notebooks. Many students find that they like a combination of strategies. Personalization is key; you need to find a strategy that suits your learning style and needs.

In taking notes, our goal is to record key information for later revision. Here are the essential components for your notes.
  • Recognize main ideas
  • Identify purpose of text
  • Summarize information to note format
  • Record sources
  • Paraphrase when possible
  • Include your thoughts
  • Review your information
                Cornell System

1. Divide your paper into three sections like shown here.

2. Write your course name, date and topic in the margin.

3. Notes will be written in the right box. Use outlines, bullet points, illustrations, etc to paraphrase main ideas. Lines should be skipped between each topic.

4. Review your notes and pull main ideas, dates, important people and write them in the left column.

5. After you finish taking notes, summarize the information in the bottom box.


Mind-mapping is a great visual technique for note-taking. You will start in the center of your page with the central idea and branch off with supporting details. You can add color and illustrations for emphasis. Here is an online interactive for mind-mapping. The map can be saved to your computer.

  • Main topics begin at the margin. 
    • Supporting topics are indented.
      • Subtopics are further indented.
  • Definitions always begin at the margin.
  • Make sure to use abbreviations. 
  • Use roman numerals or free form to organize information. 
  • Skip lines to show spaces between ideas.
        This post included tips and methods for note-taking organization. Taking notes relieves confusion and frustration before tests and exams. If you employ skillful note-taking methods, your comprehension and retention will strengthen.

Additional Resources

Don't Take Notes with a Laptop | Scientific American - reasons you should handwrite notes.

Note-Taking Methods more extensive details on methods for taking notes.

Cornell Notes in Microsoft - includes a template for Cornell note-taking and a tutorial on how to create a template in Microsoft Word.

5 Note-Taking Methods | Academic Skills Center - pdf on 5 note-taking methods and their steps.

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