Cornell Note-taking

Cornell Note-Taking System

A diagram showing the spatial arrangement and description of the Cornell note-taking system.

Download the note-taking template (doc)

First: Prep

Occurs before class begins.

  • Divide notebook paper into 3 sections, as shown in the diagram.
  • Write the course name and date at the top of each page.

Second: Notes

Occurs during class itself.

  • Record facts, ideas, and examples. More important information is generally placed on the board or emphasized/repeated by your instructor.
  • Leave space between ideas and topics
  • Place a question mark next to something you do not understand in the moment. Clarify any confusion after class by speaking with your professor, classmates, or reading the textbook.

Third: Cues

Occurs as soon as possible after class.

  • Make sense of your notes by connecting ideas together. Re-read your raw lecture notes to generate:
    • Meaningful reminders and mnemonics
    • Simple diagrams
    • Questions you can ask yourself at a later date to check whether you remember information from this particular class.
  • Example of questions to ask yourself:
    • What is the significance of Napoleon, secularism, democracy, and the late 1700s with the French Revolution?
    • How do ATP, Creb Cycle, and Photosynthesis fit together?
    • How does z (standard score) fit in with what I already learned about normal bell-curve?
    • What principles is balancing chemical equations based on?”
    • How can I apply the elements of a persuasive essay to my own argumentative paper?
  • If your Notes section is difficult to understand (or contains missing information), incorporate supplemental material from the textbook, office hour visits, classmates, or internet.

Fourth: Summary

Occurs after completing the Cues section.

  • At the bottom of each page, write a 3-4 sentence summary that encapsulates the main ideas of each page.

Fifth: Review and Recite

On a consistent, daily basis.

  • For best results, review your Cues and Summary sections several times per week.
  • Make sure you understand what you wrote and can answer each question you asked yourself.

Further information on note-taking can be found at James Madison University and Nazareth University.

SUNY Cortland students may also schedule an appointment with a professional tutor at the The Learning Center by calling 607-753-4309 or visiting Van Hoesen Hall, Room B-205.