Note Taking

Whether you are taking notes in class or taking notes from your text, there are some study systems that can help you.

Cornell Notes

3R's for Academic Survival


Read the chapter paragraph by paragraph. Read and re-read until you can answer the question: “What did the author say in this paragraph?”


Once you are able to describe what is in the paragraph, you will want to retain that learning by underlining, making notes in the margin, or making notes in your notebook.


Cover up your notes or printed page and recite aloud. Remember! If you can’t say it now, you won’t be able to say it tomorrow in class, nor write it in a week on an exam; So while you still have a chance, try and try again, until you can say it.


SR3Q Method

Step 1: SURVEY

Look over material critically. Skim through the book and read headings and anything in bold or italic print. Check out the pictures, charts, graphs and/or maps. Read the summaries at the end of chapters. Get an overall idea of what the author is trying to communicate.


Formulate questions about what you’ve surveyed. If a heading reads, “The Five Elements of Fiction,” think, “What are The Five Elements of Fiction?” If you see a word in bold, think, “What does this word mean?” Read study questions included as part of the text. If you think it would be helpful, write your questions out.

Step 3: READ

Try to answer the questions you’ve formulated while you read. Pay special attention to underlined, italicized or bold printed words or phrases. Take your time when reading difficult passages, and reread passages which are not clear to you.

Step 4: RECALL

Orally ask yourself questions about what you’ve read. Try to create a concrete, detailed mental picture of the facts you need to remember. The more senses you use, the more likely you are to remember what you read – so try seeing, saying, hearing, visualizing and writing. Spend more time on recalling than on reading.

Step 5: REVIEW

Look through the text and your notes frequently. Do you remember the important points? It’s better to review for one hour each night of the week than for five hours the night before a test. Make flash cards for concepts that you are still have problems remembering: Write a key word or question on the front of an index card, and write the corresponding explanation on the back of the same card. Quiz yourself.


Taking Notes During Class Lectures

Learning to take good notes in class is an important skill, which can help ensure success in college. The facts that the professor emphasizes in class lectures are most likely the items that will be on quizzes and exams. Note taking involves good listening skills and being able to discern key ideas, supporting ideas, as well as details and examples from a lecture.

The following suggestions present a modified version of the Cornell Method, which was developed by Dr. Walter Pauk of Cornell University. This system of note-taking has worked for many students.

Before Class

  • Being prepared is always a good idea.
  • Read the chapter that the professor will be lecturing on before class to give yourself some background knowledge.
  • Have all your supplies in order.
  • Many people prefer to take notes in a spiral notebook, however, keeping a loose-leaf notebook for each class allows you to insert handouts and rearrange your notes if necessary.
  • Keep all notes for one class together and separated from notes for other classes. Use separate notebooks, or dividers in one large notebook.
  • Ball-point ink pens will not smear like gel pens, fade like pencils or bleed through like felt-tips. Blue or black ink is easier to read than other colors.

During class

  • Head each page with the date, the name of the course and the lecture topic.
  • Take notes on two/thirds of the width of the paper on the right side of the page. Leave plenty of space so that you have room to clarify and add details to your notes.
  • Listen carefully to the lecture, and concentrate on recording the professor’s main points in your notes. Develop and use your own system of abbreviations. Concentrate on recording key vocabulary words, important facts and formulas.
  • If an organizational system is obvious during the lecture, indicate main points, supporting points as well as details and examples as you write. This kind of lecture naturally lends itself to notes in an outline format.
  • Pay special attention to anything the professor writes on the board or highlights on a PowerPoint.
  • Leave the last four or five lines at the bottom of the page blank.

After class (within 24 hours)

  • Go over your notes. Do you understand everything you recorded, or did you leave some things out? Clarify where needed, and make notes of questions to ask the professor. Compare notes with a classmate to make sure that your notes are as complete as possible.
  • Try color-coding your notes with highlighters to further clarify concepts.
  • Use the first one-third of the width of the paper (on the left side of the page) to pick out key words. Also write questions that might appear on the test in this space. Draw a vertical line separating this space from the note-taking panel on the right side of the page.
  • Write a summary of each page of notes on the lines you left blank at the bottom of each page. Separate this space from the rest of the page with a horizontal line.

Before tests

  • Cover the note panel (on the right side of your paper). Using your key words and questions, quiz yourself. Check your answers by looking on the note panel.