Cornell Notes


Why is notetaking important?

Even the best students find taking notes helpful to learn material quickly. Taking notes does not have to be a grueling task. Learning to take them correctly avoids writing too much information that is not useful.

Notetaking helps you to learn material faster in a couple of ways. First, whenever you work with a new concept using more than one sense, you will have more success. Writing is active, reading and listening are passive. When you do both passive and active together, you learn much faster. Notetaking will save time in the end.Second, using the material in a different way, such as writing the summary in Cornell Notes style, makes the information part of you. This helps to lock it into the brain.

I remember what I read and hear easily. Do I need to spend time taking notes?

You are very lucky! Yes, notes can help. Taking notes and practicing the questions will help you to push your grade higher. Also, learn to take notes now when it is easy for you. Later on when you take the tougher classes, you won't have to learn both notetaking and the material.

Cornell Notes is a style of taking notes developed by Cornell education professor, Walter Pauk. Most effective styles of notetaking use keywords and phrases, vocabulary, finding main ideas then turning them into questions, and summarizing. Cornell Notes uses all of these techniques.

You can use Cornell Notes to record information from:

How to Take Cornell Notes

You only need a piece of paper and a pencil or pen to do Cornell notes.

Divide your paper: a line across the bottom third and a line down the third left of your paper:


Here are what the different sections are for:


Main Idea Header -- During class or reading

First, write the Main Idea across the top: what you are reading about, what your teacher is going to talk about, what the video is about. Also include the date.

Notetaking -- During class or reading

Then begin to take your notes only in the notes area of your paper.

What to write down?? The main thing to remember is to keep it simple. Try not to write sentences or long phrases. Don't write everything you see or hear. Keep unecessary words to a minimum. Anything that would answer

who? what? where? when? why? how?

That's all you need to do while reading, listening, and/or viewing.

Questions on Key Words and Ideas -- before you go to sleep

Work with your notes within 24 hours of taking them -- before you go to sleep!

Take this time to clean up or clarify your notes from what you recall from earlier in the day.

In the left column, find the key ideas and topics. Make a question from this concept. Try starting with one of the question words:

who? what? where? when? why? how?

Align your question with the answer in the notetaking area, so that if you cover the notes, the question is near the answer in the notes.

Short Summary -- before you go to sleep

Write a short summary in the bottom section. Write neatly in paragraph form with correct grammar and spelling. Start with the main idea to form your topic sentence. Then for each question from the left column, restate and use the information in your notes on the right to finish the sentence. Finish with a concluding sentince which reflects your own thoughts about the topic.

Then go to sleep! Let your brain make connections during the night.


How to Use Cornell Notes

The most obvious reason to take notes is to help you study for the test. You can quiz yourself easily by folding the right side of the paper over to cover the notes, leaving just the questions. Ask yourself the questions, then peek at the notes to check.

Do you like flash cards to study? Write the questions on the left on the front of the flash card, and your notes on the back.

Do you have a hard time studying? Try studying with a friend. Compare notes and quiz each other. If you can't get together in the same place, try a video chat such as Skype.

Other ways to use Cornell Notes:

Research Paper: Use the information to insert into your research paper. Make a quick partial outline:

A. Main Idea
1. Key Question
a. detail from notes
b. detail from notes
2. Key Question
a. detail from notes
b. detail from notes

Use the keywords and ideas you have identified to search for more information.

Informational Display or Website:


Home Skills Cornell Notes

Handy Links


How to Take Cornell Notes Video

Advanced Cornell Notes Video

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