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Centerville: Note-Taking Methods

Website for Fortis College, Centerville Library & Resource Center

Helpful Tips


  • ​Always use your own words when taking notes. Writing in your own words helps you best memorize information that you will learn in class.
  • Abbreviating words will save you time if you have a fast-paced lecture.
  • If you hand write your notes, typing them out afterwards can afford you better clarity which will be an aid when it comes to studying and exam prep.
  • Keep a binder for each class that you take. Organize/separate each book chapter and keep all handouts, PowerPoint slides, and notes that you take. If you jumble all of your information together, it will make it harder for you to study.
  • Bring a highlighter to class. Highlighting key concepts will be helpful. Occasionally your instructor may tell you "Don't forget this" or "This is important." These would be the instances where highlighting would come in handy.
  • Take the Learning Styles Inventory Quiz. From taking this test, you will learn how you take in information and from knowing this, develop better studying and note-taking habits.
  • LISTEN. If you go to class with a bad attitude, you will not take in any information. Concentrate on the task ahead. What is your final goal? In order to get there, you must learn and to learn, you must listen.
  • Always review your notes. 
  • Write your questions down as they occur to you.
    • Ask your instructor if you have any questions. Many people are afraid to ask for help. Always ask for help if you need it. 

The Sentence Method

The Sentence Method is the simplest and quickest way to take notes. Only the main points or important information are written down, which, when you review, will help you know which information is the most important to know. If you have trouble figuring out which information is the most important during lecture, then this is not the best note-taking method for you. More than one page can be used, but each sentence on each page is a new main idea/topic and important information about the main idea/topic.

To use the Sentence Method:

1. Write down the most important information. Sometimes your instructor will emphasize certain points or mention beforehand that the information is important to remember. You can add bullet points for each new main idea, if this a visual aid for you.

2. Start a new sentence for each new detail or main topic.

3. Use can also use headings to separate some of the sentences/details by their main topics.

Click on the picture below to watch a video on the Sentence Method:

The Outline Method

The Outline Method is one of the most commonly used methods of note-taking. It is a good method for most lectures, but not for lectures that involve math, chemistry, or general formulas.

To use The Outline Method:

1. Write all major points/ideas/concepts in the left margin.

2.  Any specific information/facts about the major points/ideas/concepts are indented to the right. The information that is the most specific will be organized farthest to the right.

With this method, review is very easy to do and your notes will most likely not have to be rewritten.

Click on the picture below to view a video on the Outline Method:

The Cornell Method

This method of teaching was developed by a professor at Cornell University. 

It is considered to be one of the best note-taking methods, as it has little to no disadvantages and is a great method for exam prep.

To use the Cornell Method:

1. Each set of paper is divided into two columns. The column on the right side should be vastly bigger than the column on the left side.

2. Draw a line across the bottom of the page. Give yourself enough space to write 3-5 sentences.

3. The right-hand column will be where you list all of your notes in class. 

4. The left-hand column is where you will list any keywords and questions that you have. Listing questions also makes it easy for you to do exam review/prep.

5. The bottom of the page is where you will provide a quick summary of the information on the page.

Note that you do not have to write notes for the entire lecture on just one page. You may have more than one page, but each page must be set up like that.

You do not have to do your summary while lecture is happening. Write your summary when you review your notes. Spend lecture time writing notes from the lecture. If any questions pop up while lecture is happening, write them in the left column.

Click on the picture below to view a video on the Cornell Method:


The Charting Method

The Charting Method uses columns to separate information. This note-taking method is useful for a lecture that covers a lot of relationships between certain topics and for lectures that are very heavy in facts. This method is a good way to highlight important information for easy review. This type of method may be difficult to use for lectures that move around a lot with no clear pattern. 

To use the Charting Method:

1. Divide your paper into however many columns is fitting for the main topic currently being covered in lecture.

2. Label the columns into subtopics of the main topics.

3. Any information about the subtopics is put into the appropriate columns.

Click on the picture below to watch a video on the Charting Method being applied to Med-Surg:

The Mapping Method

The Mapping Method is one of the best note-taking methods to use if you are a visual learner. This method is great for understanding the relationships between ideas. If you struggle finding the relationship between points of information, this might be a good method to use to visually see it. This note-taking method is not as easy for review, but flash cards can be made from the notes, with one side being the main topic/point and the other side being the important information about the topic. This is perfect for a lecture that contains a lot of information, but the information is already organized. 

To use the Mapping Method:

1. Write the main topic as the header of the page so you know the topic of the mapped information.

2.  Divide the main topic into subtopics on the left and right using arrows to branch out from the main topic.

Click on the picture below to learn how to use the Mapping Method:

CrashCourse Study Skills

Take a look at this CrashCourse video on taking notes!


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