Introduction: How to Take Cornell Style Notes

The Cornell style, as it is known, is a method of taking, organizing, and reviewing notes that allows the brain to not only learn but retain the information presented and provides a trusted, proven way for students to study effectively. Note taking in this manner can be utilized for studying any subject in the classroom, while studying out of a textbook, or while working online or in a group setting.
The following are instructions on how to increase note-taking efficiency and information retention by utilizing the Cornell Style of note taking.


A blank lined notebook or a Cornell style notebook

A pen or pencil

Step 1: If Using Your Own Notebook, Set Up the Paper Before Class.

Generally, the top margin is already on the page. From there, draw a vertical line down beginning about 2.5” from the left side of the page leaving a 2.5” margin at the foot of the page. This will separate the middle of the page into a narrow column on the left and a larger writing space on the right.

Step 2: Label Your Sheet of Paper.

Label the paper with your name in the top left, title (centered), and date in the top right.

Step 3: Once the Lesson Begins...

Start taking notes in the largest section of the paper.

· These can be as neat or messy as you like. They’re designed to be taken during the class or lecture, so they need not be perfect, just legible.

· Use as many pages as you need, continuing to take notes and/or drawing diagrams in the largest section of the paper.

Step 4: Review When the Lesson Is Over

Once the class or lecture is over or as soon as you have time, review the notes you took during class.

Step 5: Write Down Key Terms.

As you read over the notes, write down the relevant key terms in the column to the left of the notes section. This section is only for key words, questions, or main ideas.

· Try to maintain a spatial relationship. For example: If a definition for a key word is provided towards the top of the notes section, put that corresponding key word towards the top of the left “key points” column.

Step 6: Final Review & Summary.

Lastly, review or scan over your notes one last time to ensure you fully understand the content. Then, in the bottom margin, write a couple sentences to a whole paragraph summarizing the notes.