The Cornell method is a note-taking style that I’ve been using recently for all my classes. The method involves a special page layout which includes space for notes, questions and a summary of the material. I find it to be an extremely effective way of taking textbook notes and it helps me to memorise information better than other methods. While you can get special notepaper made for this method, all you really need is some paper, a ruler and a pen.
How Do You Do It?
The Cornell method is really simple, and you can modify it for your own needs as much as you like. Here are the basics:
- Add a title, by textbook section (for textbook notes) or by date / topic (for class notes). You can do this however you like, simple or fancy.
- Rule a margin about 5cm from the edge of the page. I suggest using grid paper when taking Cornell notes as it makes this step super easy.
- Take notes on the right side of the margin, using a new paragraph for each major concept / textbook section. Notes can be full sentences or bullet points, whichever you find most effective. If you like, you can highlight or underline key terms.
- On the left side of the margin, title each paragraph. Underneath the title, write any questions you still have about the content. These are your focus questions for further study before the exam.
- Rule a line at the end of your notes, on the right hand side of the margin. Underneath it write a summary of all the content your notes have covered. You can summarise each paragraph in a sentence, write down key terms, or anything else that condenses the information. This summary, along with your questions, provide a great set of material for revision before your exams.
If you want, you can definitely change this method up. You can add doodles, eliminate the questions and/or summaries, write the summary on a sticky note instead, etc.
Here are some of my favourite notes taken in Cornell style:
- No summary / questions but still good
- Another one with only margin titles
- A different use for the margin
- Not an example but a guide of how you can use the method
Basically do whatever you like with this method! It’s pretty flexible but provides a good base layout for your notes. Also I’ve decided that I’ll do something a little different with The Student Guide than originally planned. While existing posts will remain up, I’ll be restarting the series in 1-2 weeks time with a few modifications.