The Cornell Note-Taking System

Preparation Steps

  • Divide a piece of paper into three sections.
  • Lecture notes are written in the wide 6-inch column.
  • The narrow column, about 2 inches, is used to write cue words or questions that relate back to the information in the notes.
  • The bottom of the note page is a two-inch sing block or a summary.

2. Reduce or Question
(after lecture)

- Write keywords, phrases, or questions that serve as cues for notes taken in class.

- Cue phrases and questions should be in your own words.

3. Recite

- With classroom notes covered, read each keyword or question.

- Recite fact or idea brought to mind by keyword or question.

- Check Answer.

- Recite each page aloud.

Classroom Notes

1. Record

- Write down facts and ideas in sentence or paragraph form.

- Use abbreviation when possible.
after lecture

- Read through your notes.

- Fill in blanks and make scribbles more legible.

4 & 5. Reflect and Review

- Think about what you have learned

- Review your notes periodically by reciting.

6. Recapitulate (after lecture)

- Summarize each page of notes at the bottom of each page.

- Summarize the whole lecture on the last page.

Helpful Hints for Getting Started

  1. Buy a different colored notebook for each class, so that you can tell them apart at a glance. Or, keep a large loose leaf notebook with dividers.
  2. Make sure you date the notes for each day's lecture.
  3. At the top of each new day's lecture, leave a few lines so that when the lecture is over you can write in the topics covered.
  4. Make use of your own personal short hand system. Use symbols whenever possible. For example: w, w/in, w/o, &, $, #, =, +, i.e. (that is), e.g. (for example). However, you need to make sure you can read your notes later on.
  5. Include illustrations and graphs that your teacher uses to help you remember the context better.
  6. Reread your notes as soon as possible after each class. This one simple thing will drastically increase the amount of material you are able to remember.

The Six Steps of Note-Taking

  1. RECORD - Record as many facts and ideas as you can int he 6 inch column.
  2. REDUCE OR QUESTION - After reading through your notes the next step is to reduce each fact and idea to key words or phrases, or to formulate questions based on each fact and idea which can cue you to answer the information in your notes.
  3. RECITE - Recitation is different from rereading in that you state aloud and in your words the facts and ideas you are trying to learn. Hearing your own thoughts helps you to remember them later. When reciting cover up your notes on the right and just look at the keywords. Answer any questions. Then check to make sure your answers were correct. If your answers were wrong, correct it aloud before you go on.
  4. REFLECT - This is pondering or thinking about the information you have learned. Reflecting is a step beyond learning note content. It is a way to reinforce deep learning by relating facts and ideas to other learned knowledge. This is where you ask yourself - How can I apply this information?
  5. REVIEW - The way to prevent forgetting is to review and recite your notes frequently. Notes should be reviewed nightly or at the very least several times a week BY RECITING NOT REVIEWING.

    First Review: Reading to identify and learn main points. Make incomplete sentence complete, add additional thoughts. Identify central ideas of the lecture.

    Second Review: Summarizing - recite the important main ideas of the lecture by summarizing in your own words. The summary can be verbal or written or both.

    Third Review: Question and Answer - ask specific questions about the lecture. The questions and the answers to the questions should be written down to be easily accessible for review.

    Types of Questions*

    1. How does this relate to me? What is my opinion about this?
    2. How does this compare or relate to what I learned last week? How might this compare to future ideas that I might anticipate? How can I relate this to my other classes?
    3. What is the main idea? What are the supporting ideas?
    4. Why is knowing this important? How can this be used in everyday living? What are some practical examples of how to apply this? What is a practical application that is different from the context in which I learned this?

    * Be selective in the question you choose to use, as you do not have adequate time to use them all.

  6. RECAPITULATE - This goes at the bottom of the note page in the 2-inch space. After you have done all of the above, summarize the facts and ideas in your notes to help you to integrate the information. This should be done in your own words - not just recopying your original notes.