Introduction to Note Taking

Note taking is an essential learning skill for college students to implement during and outside of class time. The notes recorded during a class lecture should be compiled of the important facts or ideas presented by the professor. Implementing a system of note taking is important for several reasons. First, the faculty member may be presenting supplemental material not found in your text book but critical for you to learn in order to make a connection to prior knowledge or introduce new material within your textbook. Secondly, the information presented within a lecture may be used for future assessments (quizzes, exams, reflection papers).  Finally, a system of good note taking is an important study strategy. Actively listening and taking notes during class increases the retention of the material. Reviewing the notes immediately after class to add additional points or to generate questions for clarification creates opportunity for additional retention and understanding. Effective note taking skills will assist in preparing for exams and future knowledge base of material.

Getting Organized

A 3-ring binder is usually the most organized system for note taking. This allows you to place your syllabi in the front, insert handouts by date, and add notes as needed. It also allows you to remove sections of notes and place them side by side to create a “big picture” view of a main point, chapter, or section.

Before Class

Effective note taking begins prior to class by creating a framework of reference. This strategy provides familiarity with terms, ideas and concepts discussed in lecture and leads to an active role in your own learning.

  • Determine the lecture topic and review past readings and notes
  • Complete readings assigned to lecture topics and preview any other auxiliary material (Power Point presentation, video clips, etc…)
  • Prepare questions you may have from the readings

During Class

Depending on the type of class and personal learning style, you will develop your own method of taking notes. Here are some guidelines and methods to assist with the process:

  • Date your notes
  • Keep the objective/theme of the class in mind
  • Record notes in your own words
  • Make your notes brief
  • If you fall behind, stop. Make a mark in your notebook, listen for a few minutes until you feel caught up, then begin taking notes again.  It is better to listen and get the information later.

Three Common Note Taking Methods:

Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is a systematic and simple method for note taking that breaks the note page into three sections to allow for organized recording and review.  You can use it while reading your text or taking lecture notes.
Cornell Note-Taking Template
Cornell Notes Example


Record main ideas to the left of the page.  Indent more specific information underneath and further indent examples.
Outlining Example


Charting is a good strategy for courses that require comparison/contrast of specific dates, places, people, events, importance and how the information relates.
Charting Example

After Class

To solidify your understanding and connect new concepts with previous concepts, review your notes as soon as possible following class.

  • Immediately after class, remain in the classroom or find a quiet space close by and review notes.
  • Connect with another member of the class and create an interactive discussion about the lecture.
  • Visit your professor during office hours with questions. Be specific, state what you understand and ask if you missed any important concepts.
  • Instead of recopying your notes, record yourself reviewing what you wrote. Speaking out loud is an interactive process that leads to a more in depth understanding. Additionally, you will have a recording that can be played back.

Additional Resources

Reference List

Thum, C.  (Producer). (1996) Academic Success Videos. Notetaking. Video retrieved


Note Taking. Video retrieved from

Learning Strategies. Effective Note Taking. Video retrieved from