5 Useful Note-Taking Methods for College Students

Note-taking is more than just jotting down important points. Note-taking is a useful technique that helps arrange information in a logical or sequential order, which helps simplify complicated concepts. If you want to be an ace note-taker, it will take a lot of practice. A few useful tips can nudge you in the right direction. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to note-taking, there are some popular methods you can use while taking lecture notes. 

If you’re looking for some note-taking inspiration, you might find the following methods useful: 

  1. The Sentence Method: This is a fairly simple method similar to transcribing. It involves writing down important information in the form of a simple sentence in a sequential order. Each key point is summarized into a simple sentence. From math to chemistry and history, this method is useful for taking notes in all subjects. 
  2. The Charting Method: As the name suggests, this method uses a chart, similar to a spreadsheet, with multiple columns and/or rows. Each column and/or row has a different heading. This method is useful if you want to compare and/or contrast two different ideas or concepts. For example, if you are a history student learning about World War I and II, you can state the name of the 1st war (WWI) in row 1 and the column headings can be different categories like the timeline of the war, participants in the war, important treaties, etc. Likewise, you can state the name of the 2nd war (WWII) in row 2 and the column headings will be the same for both wars. This will help you understand the similarities and differences between both wars.
  3. The Mapping Method: If you’re learning a complicated concept that has multiple topics and subtopics or topic hierarchies, then this method can come in handy. This method helps establish a relationship between different subtopics of a key topic. If there are multiple interdependent subtopics that appear in a particular sequence, then you will find this method useful. For example, if you are studying financial markets, your main topic would be financial markets and the subtopics can be types of financial markets, functions of financial markets, scope of financial markets, and so on.  
  4. The Outlining Method: This method is similar to recording information in the form of a bulleted list with multiple indented subheadings. The main concept becomes the main heading followed by subheadings that provide more information about the main topic. If a subheading needs further elaboration or has supporting facts, add an indented bullet point below that subheading to record additional facts and other supporting details.  
  5. The Cornell Method: This is the most popular note-taking method, which was created at Cornell University in the 1950s. In this method, you divide the page into two sections. The left section is called the cue column, and the right one is called the notes column. The left column is narrower than the right column and mentions the key concept or the main idea or other crucial information. The right column is used to provide more information about the key concept or the main idea. You can use simple sentences, bulleted list, numbered list or any other format in the right column. This method also has a top and bottom section. The top of the page is used to note the title, (which could be the name of the lesson, chapter name, etc.), date, course code, etc. The bottom section is the summary section, which you can use to reiterate the main idea in a simple, summarized manner. 

Each of these note-taking methods have their own set of advantages. Depending on the subject you are learning, you can choose to use one or more of these methods. Have you used any of these methods before? If so, which one do you prefer? Do let us know in the comments below. 


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