Note-taking template

There is no one perfect method for taking notes but it can be made more effective through the use of templates. It is important to find a method that works for you, both during a lecture or reading session, and for when you need to retrieve the information at a later date. Be prepared to try different techniques and adapt as needed.


Cornell note-taking method

The Cornell Method divides a single piece of paper into three different sections. 

The note section is for noting down key ideas from lecture. These are your annotations where you write done the main theories and theorists, concepts, key terms etc.

  • What is the author's aims?
  • What is the their research question?
  • What is the author arguing?
  • What is their answer to the question?
  • What points support their argument?
  • What are their main reasons?
  • What evidence have they used to support their argument? 

The cue column is for you to write down your own questions, thoughts, terms you are unsure of, connections between ideas etc. In short, this is where you critically engage with the lecture material. These may also form "cues" to aid your memory.

  • What do I already know?
  • Strengths and weaknesses?
  • How valid are the research methods?
  • How strong is the evidence?
  • How logical is the argument?
  • How does this fit in to other research in the field?
  • What do I need to find out next?

Summarise at various points within the lecture or reading or if you prefer, sometime after the lecture or when you've finished reading. The summaries are crucial as they help you to reflect and develop your understanding of the course content, and practice articulating the main ideas. 

In the example, the cue column is on the left and notes on the right, but you should adapt the template to suit your needs. Note that this method can also be used in note-taking software.

Note: Based on the Cornell Note Taking system, adapted from: Walter Pauk and Ross Owens, How to Study in College (Boston: Cengage, 2011), 205 - 279.

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