The Cornell Notes System is a note-taking system that is really great for when you’re following lectures or studying a textbook. Take notes when you’re in class. Take notes when you’re reading a text. Notes can be messy, concise and bullet-point short. Just leave plenty of space and try to get the most important stuff in.
- Use symbols and abbreviations. Obviously it depends on the subject you’re studying, so find abbreviations that make sense to you. I use the psi symbol Ψ for ‘psycho’ or ‘psychology’, and ‘def’ when I am about to write a definition.
- Use arrows and other shapes to connect bits of information. I use a line as if I’m drawing a cloud when I want to take a collection of points or notes and lead it to a conclusion.
- It’s good to leave plenty of space for any additions you might want to add later. However, if you’re missing a big chunk of info, don’t be afraid to go to the next page and write it out there. Just add ‘see page x’ to the original note, so you know to check there when you’re reviewing.
A study published in 2010 by Wichita State University compared two note taking methods in a secondary English classroom, and found that Cornell Note taking may be of added benefit in cases where students are required to synthesize and apply learned knowledge, while the guided notes method appeared to be better for basic recall.
Take a break after taking notes. Your brain needs some time to process it all, so drink some tea or go for a walk. After your break, go over your notes. Find the bits of information you might be missing and look it up. Don’t be afraid of making your notes look messy, they’re not supposed to be pretty.
The Cue Column
After you’ve completed your note section, it’s time to move to the cue column. The cue column is for keywords and key questions. You’ll be using the cue column for Anki-card inspiration. It’s also a helpful tool when you’re using your notes as an archive, just look through the cue column for the keyword you want to read about and then read the notes for that section.
Don’t forget to add questions to your cue column. Questions are the best way of really understanding and applying your learned knowledge.
The Summary Column
Use the summary column to repeat the most important points of your notes, but do it in your own words. The summary column is great of quick referencing. I don’t really use the summary column that much, because my notes are already a summary. Another reason is that I use a smaller notebook for my notes (Leuchtturm1917 dotted A5), so space is an issue for me. But you should certainly use a summary column if it makes sense to you.