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Note Taking - The Cornell System

The Cornell system for taking notes is designed to save time and be highly efficient. There is no rewriting or retyping of your notes. It is a "do it right the first time" system.


Use a large, loose-leaf notebook. Use only one side of the paper (later, you can lay your notes out to see the direction of a lecture). Draw a vertical line 2.5 inches from the left side of you paper. This is the recall column. Notes will be taken to the right of this margin. Later, key words or phrases can be written in the recall column.

During the Lecture

  • Record notes in paragraph form
  • Capture general ideas, not illustrative ideas
  • Skip lines to show end of ideas or thoughts
  • Using abbreviations will save time
  • Write legibly

After the Lecture

Read through your notes and make them more legible if necessary. Now, use the recall column. Jot down ideas or key words that give you the idea of the lecture. You will have to reread the lecturer's ideas and reflect in your own words. Cover up the right-hand portion of your notes and recite the general ideas and concepts of the lecture. Overlap your notes showing only recall columns and you have your review.