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Cornell Notes

The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes.

The student divides the paper into two columns: the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two inches (5 cm), at the bottom of the page.

Notes from a lecture or teaching are written in the note-taking column; notes usually consist of the main ideas of the text or lecture, and long ideas are paraphrased. Long sentences are avoided; symbols or abbreviations are used instead. To assist with future reviews, relevant questions (which should be recorded as soon as possible so that the lecture and questions will be fresh in the student's mind) or key words are written in the key word column.

After the notes have been taken, the student writes a brief summary in the bottom five to seven lines of the page. This helps to increase understanding of the topic. When studying for either a test or quiz, the student has a concise but detailed and relevant record of previous classes.

When reviewing the material, the student can cover up the note-taking (right) column to answer the questions/keywords in the key word or cue (left) column. The student is encouraged to reflect on the material and review the notes regularly.

EXAMPLE:

Divide the paper into three sections.
  • Draw a dark horizontal line about 5 or 6 lines from the bottom. Use a heavy magic marker to draw the line so that it is clear.
  • Draw a dark vertical line about 2 inches from the left side of the paper from the top to the horizontal line.
Cornell notes instructional diagram
Document
  • Write course name, date, and topic at the top of each page.
Cornell notes instructional diagram
Write Notes
  • The large box to the right is for writing notes. 
  • Skip a line between ideas and topics.
  • Don't use complete sentences. Use abbreviations, whenever possible. Develop a shorthand of your own, such as using "&" for the word "and".
Cornell notes instructional diagram
Review and clarify.
  • Review the notes as soon as possible after class.
  • Pull out main ideas, key points, dates, and people, and write these in the left column.
Cornell notes instructional diagram
Summarize
  • Write a summary of the main ideas in the bottom section.
Cornell notes instructional diagram
Study your notes.
  • Re-read your notes in the right column.
  • Spend most of your time studying the ideas in the left column and the summary at the bottom. These are the most important ideas and will probably include most of the information that you will be tested on.
A+ drawn in red over cornell notes example