Note-Taking Essentials: Highlighting the Good Stuff

You’ve spent years taking notes in class…but have you ever stopped to think, “is this note-taking strategy the right one for me?” We’ll help you reflect on your current note-taking strategies to find room for improvements, and ultimately your academic career, with these new strategies, tips, and tricks. Take note!

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Types of Notes

Cornell Method note-taking-strategies

You’ve probably heard of (and used) Cornell Method Notes–one of the most popular note-taking strategies amongst students today. This technique is best used when needing to divide your notes into three sections: keywords, notes, and a summary. In the left margin, select keywords that are significantly important or words that include a definition. In the right column, keep more important ideas about the keyword selected. Try to keep these notes short & sweet–creating notes in the right column that are too long or not organized with the correct keyword can become confusing and unclear when needing to look back at your notes. At the end of your notes, develop a summary to help you reflect on the key aspects you surely don’t want to forget!

Split-Page Method

This method, very similarly to the Cornell Method Notes, requires dividing the note-page vertically into two sections: main ideas and secondary ideas. With split-page method notes, the ideas is that you are continuously organizing your ideas, so that you can better optimize your study time when using your notes.

Visual Aids taking_notes_with_graphical_outlines

Using visual aids when taking notes has been shown to improve the way our brain processes information. Visual aids can involve the use of photographs, diagrams, graphs, films. Rather than writing several paragraphs of information, you can organize your ideas into a cleaner, more appealing way to he eye. The use of colors and different visual elements can be a more resourceful method when it comes to yo developing ideas and memorizing information.

Exchange Ideas by Collaboration

During a large class lecture filled with several hundred students, it can be very helpful to befriend a couple students that you to trust to take good notes on your behalf for those days you’re out sick (or the days where life just happens…). You’ll be able to make the most of a missed day and stay caught up on important information that might be crucial to your next quiz or exam.

Creating a diverse study group will also help you exchange ideas by collaboration and allow you to gain different perspectives on lessons you might not have been familiar with before. You can share notes, quiz each other, and critique each other’s essays. Just remember–don’t get lazy. You can’t expect your study buddy to do everything for you. If you both take detailed notes and do your parts, you’ll find yourself reaping the rewards of discussing new ideas and gaining new perspectives!

Diverse Architect People Group Working ConceptImportant Quick Tips for Successful Notes

  • Make sure yo2u attend your classes–attendance in class give you optimum success for taking great notes.
  • Read all textbook material relevant to the topic prior to attending class–preparing for lectures and discussions ahead of time allows you to be familiar with the subject and know what to ask. You’ll know ahead of time what to write, and what is extremely important.
  • Have a designated work space where you feel you’re most inspired to complete your best work and stay focused.
  • Keep the notes for one class separate from your other classes. Even better, have a separate binder for each classes notes.

Using Your Notes to Write an Essay

You can use a variety of techniques to take notes when you are reading for an essay, but 1the  most important aspect to remember is to record the key information and ideas in your own words. The benefit to taking notes from a reading in your own words will ensure that you avoid any plagiarism and violations to your school’s academic code–it’s easy to forget that the notes you jotted down weren’t actually your own, but, rather, the author’s (word for word!). Taking notes in your own words will also allow you to have a better understanding of the text you’re reading.

While taking notes from a specific reading, write down all the information you might need for your works cited page–title of the text, author, page number, paragraph number, etc. You’ll thank yourself when you’ve finished your essay and go to complete your works cited page! You’ll save a ton of time and frustration of not having to back-track through your book trying to find where you used a direct quote or paraphrased information.

MLA Style Guidelines Overview →

APA Style Guidelines Overview →


Remember that good note taking calls for effort! Show up to class, listen intently, and write legibly (and maybe with a favorite writing utensil!). If you put these note-taking essentials to practice, we ensure you’ll be taking more meaningful notes to increase your chances for academic success in the classroom and beyond.

Further Reading

More on the Cornell Method of note-taking (and image source):

More on taking notes with graphs (and image source):