Five Tips for Effective Note Taking

Posted by Marjorie Pratt on 9/23/19 11:24 AM

5 Tips For Effective Note-Taking

Imagine you're sitting in class, and the teacher is talking a mile a minute. You have an exam coming up, and you're not sure what you need to be studying. Unfortunately, you can't write down every single word the teacher says. What do you do?

Just like studying, everyone has a different note-taking style. It's up to each individual to find the style that works best for them, but here are some options to get you started!

Bullet Points

This is a pretty straightforward system of note-taking. It works well for those with a one-track mind who can't format notes and listen at the same time. You can jot down what you think is important and leave a little space between points for fleshing out. If you choose to wait until after class to add to your notes, be sure to do it immediately, so things are still fresh on your mind.


Lectures are often built from a skeleton, an outline. This method of note-taking consists of taking the lecture and turning it back into a skeleton. It is similar to the Bullet Point method just with more bullet points and a hierarchy. The key to using this system effectively is keeping things concise and logically ordered without obsessing over getting the format perfect. You can always reorganize points and add to the the outline after class.

Diagrams and Doodles

Maybe words on a page aren't your best friends. Maybe you understand things better through visual aids. Consider swapping words for drawings! Of course, you can't switch completely to doodles. Even math and science classes need words between their diagrams to help things make sense, but if you can better understand certain relationships through a little doodle, go for it!

Paragraph Style

Lectures, like we said before, begin in an outline format. From there, they become a sort of essay. What you hear in class is really just a spoken essay. Obviously, you can't rewrite the whole essay or the whole lecture word for word, but you can capture the main points and arguments. Make sure to note the thesis of the lecture, the main arguments, and evidence!

Cornell Style

NotesCornellGet out your ruler for this one. You'll need to divide your paper into three sections, so draw one horizontal line and one vertical line. One of the vertical sections will be for keywords or main points. The next vertical section is for expansions of those main points. The horizontal section at the bottom is perfect for a final summary to be written down at the end of the lecture. This is a perfect way to keep everything well organized without the hassle of in-depth formatting.

Dr. Roberts recommends this style of note-taking for his Logic and Philosophy classes.


Maybe the best style for you is a mix of multiple note-taking methods. However you decide to take notes, remember: stay organized, look back over them, and be creative. Consider investing in nice notebooks and pens, comparing notes with other students, and color coding to keep things neat and aesthetically pleasing!


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