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4 Notetaking Methods to Help You Ace This Semester

Make your back-to-school process a little easier by stepping up your notetaking game!

The Outline Method

This is the most traditional form of notetaking and one that you’re probably most familiar with. The outline method uses headings, indentations and bullet points to organize your notes into a hierarchal structure. This method is useful when learning about topics that include a lot of detail because it presents your notes in an organized structure, making it easier for you to see the connection between topics and subtopics.

The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is a note-taking method devised by Walter Pauk at Cornell University in the 1950s. This method requires you to split the page into four sections. The top section is the title. The left-hand section is for keywords and questions-- this section is designed to help you identify larger ideas while studying. The right-hand section is for detailed notes and answers the questions on the left-hand side. The bottom section gives a summary for the page of notes, which comes in handy when you need to do a review of the materials.

The method is best used when studying for a test because it organizes and consolidates all your notes. It sections off key concepts making it easier to find the information you are looking for. This method can be done by hand or digitally over Google Sheets.

The Flow-Based Method

In lecture classes, there is a tendency for students to copy down the PowerPoint slide word for word. This habit can be problematic because it does not actually promote learning. The method was designed to force students away from the transcription approach. Instead, it pushed students to write notes according to how they are visualizing the content, emphasize what they think is important, and put the information in their own words. The process of thinking about the content and writing down the notes in your own words helps you learn along the way.

In this method, you can write all over the page, make doodles, and use arrows to connect the ideas. The downside of this method is the lack of organization. When using this method, the student should go back to the notes at a later date to rewrite and reorganize the information.

The Split Page Method

As the name suggests, the split page method requires you to split the page in half by drawing a vertical line down the middle. The method can be used in two ways: the first to maximize space and the second to combine textbook notes and lecture notes. In traditional notetaking methods, you often end up wasting space on the right side of the paper if your sentence or bullet point does not take up the entire line. The method can maximize your notebook space by using up every inch of space. Another way to use this method is to use one side of the page for reading notes and the other side for lecture notes. Most classes assign students readings to complete before class. Using this method, the student can jot down notes from the lecture on the other side of the page.

This method can be especially useful if you do not like spending all of the class copying down the lecture notes word for word. Instead, you already have the key concepts down and can add any additional information to the other side of the page.

Now you're ready to be an academic weapon. 

Kathy Nguyen is a Senior at VCU. She is double majoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies and Political Science with concentration in International Relations. Her passion includes advocating for women's reproductive rights and gun reforms. In addition to her political activism, she is a coffee snob and a Harry Potter fanatic.
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