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Notebook training (blank notes)

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Consistency is the key with note-taking.  Have a designated notebook for each course, and use the same format for every class session.

Cornell Note-taking System

The picture below shows what each page should look like, with three main sections in the order that you fill them out.

  1. Notes
  2. Cues
  3. Summary

Cues on left margin, notes in middle, summary at the bottom of  the page

Concept Mapping

This note-taking style is great for students who want to visualize the connections between concepts in class.  Here are some examples to try out:

Concept Map with bubbles

Venn Diagram

Funnel Diagram

Tip: know your learning style well enough to know if concepts maps are a good fit for you.


Each main idea should start on the red line of your notebook page.  Indent for each new line that is connected with your main point.  Be sure to keep a consistent format!

Outline style of notes


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Each of these note styles can be adapted to use on your laptop so your notes are with you wherever you go.  Similarly to physical notebooks, it is very important to keep your files organized by class.  Use a standard name for the file also.

Ex:   Accounting mm/dd/yyyy

One great alternative for those with a mobile device is Evernote.  Anywhere you get Internet access, your notes are with you. Take a look:


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1. Use symbols to reference code your notes.  It helps with easily accessing the important facts when studying. Here are a few examples:

?    – not sure, but can figure it out

??  – really don’t understand, go ask the professor

*    – important concept

+   – add to this section later

#   – this idea is referenced in earlier notes (tagged)

”    – professor quotes of something that will be tested

2. Try out colored pens or highlighters for different areas of notes. Here are some ideas:

  1. Main ideas from the session
  2. Definitions of key terms
  3. Dates of events
  4. Different color for each day of notes taken

highlighter caps
3. Draw pictures to trigger your memory

Remembering facts from your notes can be aided by adding small reference pictures.  Your brain will use multiple means of tracking back to that space on your notebook page, and a picture is a great way to help something important stand out.  The picture doesn’t have to be perfect; in fact, the odder the connection, the better.

For example:  You need to remember the city in which the Declaration of Independence was signed. (Philadelphia)

Abraham Lincoln fixing the Liberty Bell
Remember, the odder the picture, the better


Here are some great Note-Taking Apps:

Evernote logo   OneNote logo