The Cornell Note-taking System                                            Download Note Pads!

Overview of this Note-taking System
Example of the Cornell in Action from Cornell University
5 Great Reasons to Use this System?
  1) Take more organized notes.
  2) Highly efficient, time saving system.
  3) Especially useful for reviewing and studying for tests.
  4) Incredibly easy to use.
  5) Use your preferred style of notes with the Cornell System.
What is the "Modified Cornell Note-taking System"?
If you are bored and need a challenge, try this!
  See the 400 word per minute demonstration. (video clip)
Where can I purchase these note pads?
Bibliography

image of the modified cornell note-taking system

Overview
Take most of your notes in the larger right column. The narrower summary column is reserved for writing key words, vocabulary terms, brief summaries, main ideas, formulas or other critical information. After class, write down the key points in the left column.
     The Cornell system allows users to write down most of the points and supporting details without having to worry about their structure and relationships. During a lecture, the most important focus is to take thorough notes.(1) There is room in the left column to organize the information later. Having this extra room can enable students to structure their notes without having to rewrite them over again. This can save hours of time.
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Example of the Cornell in Action from Cornell University
http://lsc.sas.cornell.edu/Sidebars/Study_Skills_Resources/cornellsystem.pdf  (pdf)
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5 Great Reasons to Use this System?
1) Take more organized notes
The Cornell note-taking system was designed by Walter Pauk to help Cornell University students take more organized notes.
http://ccc.byu.edu/casc/note-taking-class
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2) Highly efficient, time saving system
This system is designed to help you get it right the first time. No need to recopy your notes. Additionally, it saves time with its summary column which can be viewed as a type of "executive summary." An executive summary is a concise summary of an official document that allows executives to get a quick understanding of the material without having to read the entire document. The summary column in the Cornell system can serve a similar role.
http://www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/cornell.html

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3) Especially useful for reviewing and studying for tests
This is the built in power of the summary column. When used correctly, the concise summaries in this column serve as cues for reciting, reviewing and reflecting.  Think of it as a "built-in review" column. This left column becomes an index for fast reviews and finding material.
     When studying for an exam, use your Cornell notes like "study cards." Cover up the main note section on the right side and try to recall the key concepts on the left. Then, cover up the key concepts on the left and recall the supporting details to the right. Instead of writing down key concepts in the narrow left hand column, some students prefer to turn the content into questions. They cover up the information in the right column and try to answer the question in the left column in their head. http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/docs/cornell_note_taking.doc
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4) Incredibly easy to use
You can actually use this system with very little training. Begin by taking notes the way you normally take notes, but do this in the main note-taking area in the right column. The summary column on the left is where you put key words and ideas from your regular notes in the main notes area on the right.
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5) Use your preferred style of notes within the Cornell System.
Use any of the following note-taking systems in the main area of the Cornell system as you like. The summary column is still available to add key ideas that may help add value to these and any other formats used.

Style Description
Linear

This is typically the style of the novice user. You start at the top of the page and take notes, line by line. Novels are often written in a linear fashion. The biggest draw back to linear notes is that they show little to no structure or organization. It is difficult to see how concepts and terms relate to one another. If your teacher tests on straight factual questions taken nearly word for word from a lecture, linear notes are almost as effective as other styles.(2) However, if you are required to reflect and think about the information, you might want to use another style when possible.
     Although the linear style is not our method of choice, it is not without merit. Einstein, Newton and DaVinci all took notes in their own unique ways and at times took very linear notes. However, it should be noted that they were all fast note-takers. (3)

Outline

This style uses Roman Numerals, letters, numbers and indenting to give order to the concepts and subpoints in a lecture or text. The main titles generally follow a Roman Numeral and are written next to the left margin. Main points are indented a little traditionally after a capitalized letter. Subpoints are further indented following a number and so forth.
     If you are not comfortable with the traditional use of Roman Numerals and letters to identify main ideas and subpoints, create your own variation. Main points and subpoints can delineated by all capital letters, larger letter sizes, underlines, colors, highlights, etc.
     Students who use the Outlining style scored higher on text exams. (4) This system works well with the Cornell format described earlier. One draw back to Outlining is that it can be difficult to see the structure or relationship between concepts when notes are taken over several pages.

Mapping

This is a highly visual approach to note-taking and arguably the most difficult to do during a lecture. This method takes practice. If the speaker is disorganized, this style would likely be the most frustrating.
     Mapping is generally most effective for taking notes from text books rather than lectures. Using the Mapping and Matrix Systems, requires users to construct spatial representations. In a lecture situation, this may actually hinder your ability to process information.(5) The exception to this would be if the teacher displays mapping to illustrate the lecture concepts on the board, in which case we would highly recommend using it for that segment of the lecture.
     To begin mapping, write down the main idea or concept of the lecture in large letters anywhere on the page. If you start in the middle of the page, it will give you more room to expand in all directions. If you want to get creative, frame the main idea with a circle, square, star, cloud or any shape you desire. Branching from the main idea are the topics enclosed in another shape of your choice. Branching from each topic are the related subtopics enclosed in another shape. Use the shapes consistently to visually depict how topics and subtopics are related.
     One variation is to write on the branching lines (arrows) to further illustrate how topics and subtopics are related.

Matrix

The Matrix format is another way to depict information visually. It is a very highly effective method for displaying information for review. Students using the matrix system performed better on tests compared to students using linear or outline styles.(6) Matrix notes reduce clutter-therefore locating notes becomes easier and quicker.
     Matrix notes can be used when there are two or more topics for comparison. Therefore this style cannot be used all of the time. It is ideal for comparing and evaluating sets of information, however matrices do take longer to develop.
     The Matrix system lays out information in a table-like format. First, identify the topics you wish to compare and place them as headings either in the top (horizontal) columns of the table or the first (vertical) row of each table. Next, determine the items for comparison. The topics and items form the structure of the table.
     The matrix format is recommended when taking notes from texts. Students using the matrix system for review achieved superior results on test questions that required the transfer and application of knowledge. They also scored high on recall and factual recognition questions.(7)

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What is the "Modified Cornell Note-taking System"?
It is the same as the traditional Cornell note-taking system with one exception -- there is no line one inch from the bottom for the paragraph summary area (used for summarizing the entire page). Some educators recommend using this bottom area for adding footnotes and information sources. Our experience has shown that this area is rarely used, therefore it was left out of the modified design. It should be noted that there is nothing preventing someone from using our "modified" pads and leaving that area free for this type of information.

Traditional Layout Modified Layout

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If you are bored and need a challenge, try this!
Here is a great and challenging way to stay focused! For most students we recommend filling in the summary column during your first review session with these notes. It is tough enough to get down the key ideas during most lectures. One study found that even "A" students miss 40% of the key ideas during a lecture. Even worse, Freshmen missed nearly 90% of key ideas. So for the vast majority of students, we recommend taking the best notes you can in the "Main Notes Section" and then during your first review session, fill in the summary column. Having said that, if you are already a great note-taker and bored, a really challenging activity is to try to capture the key ideas from a lecture AND fill in the summary column during the lecture.
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This video clip showcases how to use the "Modified Cornell Note-taking System" to combat boredom in the classroom. Interestingly, when this was originally taped, the audio demonstration at exactly 400 words per minute was close to breaking the record in the Guinness Book of World Records. Dr. Digital nearly passed out after finishing the clip!
(56k or 256k) ..Flash
Windows Media Files
 
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Where can I purchase "Modified Cornell Note-taking" note pads?
Levenger is the only company that we know of that sells these pads. Remember, you can download and print our cornell template.

Bibliography
(1) Kiewra, Kenneth. Note-taking and review: the research and its implications. Instructional Science, Vol. 16, 1987, 233-249. [BACK]
(2) Kiewra, Kenneth A., DuBois, Nelson F., Christian, David and McShane, Anne. 1988. Providing study notes: comparison of three types of notes for review. Journal of Educational Psychology , vol. 80 (4), 595-597. [BACK]
(3) According to British Brain Researcher, Tony Buzan in Strachar, Ed. 1995. Reading Genius . Speed Reading course kit: Cupertino , CA , tape 3. [BACK]
(4) Kiewra, Kenneth A., DuBois, Nelson F. , Christian, David and McShane, Anne. 1988. Providing study notes: comparison of three types of notes for review. Journal of Educational Psychology , vol. 80 (4), 595-597. [BACK]
(5) Kiewra, Kenneth A. Note-taking and review strategies: Theoretical Orientations, empirical findings and instructional practices. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education, vol.4, 5-17. [BACK]
(6) Kiewra, Kenneth A., DuBois, Nelson F. , Christian, David and McShane, Anne. 1988. Providing study notes: comparison of three types of notes for review. Journal of Educational Psychology , vol. 80 (4), 595-597. (Mapping was not tested) [BACK]
(7) Kiewra, Kenneth A., DuBois, Nelson F. , Christian, David and McShane, Anne. 1988. Providing study notes: comparison of three types of notes for review. Journal of Educational Psychology , vol. 80 (4), 595-597. [BACK]

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