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July 26, 2023

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Note Taking Strategies

Refining your note-taking skills and strategies can help give you the upper hand in school or at work. Notes are an essential part of everyday life and help you to remember key details in lectures or meetings. Spend time making sure your notes are legible and well-organized using the following methods to improve your note-taking abilities.

Using Abbreviations

Depending on how much and how fast you’re taking in information, you may find it easier to abbreviate and use symbols in your notes. Examples of abbreviations include: w/ (with), w/o (without), ex. (example), and ampersands (&) instead of writing out “and.” If you are not used to using abbreviations, it’s a good idea to write out a key so that you know what the most common abbreviations mean.

Utilize White Space

Notetaking is meant to be referred to later in time. If you can’t read your notes, they have no use! So while clear penmanship is important, it’s also important that you write out your notes with enough space to read them. Use blank spaces and lines to separate your subjects and topics. While you might think you need to squeeze all your notes onto a single page, remember that it’s better to run onto the next page and be able to read it later on.

Write Your Questions Down

Questions are completely normal when taking notes. Write questions down as they come up in your notes. You may find it helpful to highlight or star your questions so that you remember to bring them up later. Some people may prefer leaving enough white space after writing down a question to write the answer directly afterwards. You can also add notes about who you want to ask or how you want to look up the answer to the question.

Avoid Digital Notes

Although digital notetaking has become more popular with the rise of computers and tablets with keyboards, science has proven that handwritten notes are more likely to be remembered over time. For one, handwritten notes tend to be more selective, meaning you have to engage and choose what you want to write down. Traditional handwritten notes also allow for drawings, abbreviations, and highlights that can be more easily remembered.

Note Taking Methods

Note taking methods help you to organize your notes in a deliberate way. Each method is designed for a specific use and subject. Everyone develops their own way of taking notes. What works for you may not work for someone else, or you may need to adjust your way to make the most sense for you. The following methods are some of the most common and widely used ways of taking notes.

Cornell Method

The Cornell method separates your page into two sections. The left section, about 1/3 of the page, is used for headlines to callout your note sections, while the right section, about 2/3 of the page, is for taken in depth notes that you can refer to while studying. It is ideal for taking notes that have many definitions or formulas that you need to differentiate within your notes.

Mind Maps

A mind map is a visual way to organize your notes on a single page. They are often used for big concepts that are harder to understand through traditional note-taking methods. A mind map starts with a big topic in the center that branches out into smaller ideas. Each smaller idea can break out into even smaller details. Since mind maps are very visual, many people like to use colored pens to highlight different topics and time periods.

Traditional Outlining

Outlining uses deliberate and precise labelling to organize your notes within main topics, subtopics, and details. Outlining connects the sub-details to the subtopic and back up to the main topic, keeping everything connected and related to each other. You can use color coding and indentations to further organize your notes.

Equitation Method

The equitation method was designed to organize a single page of notes around a single formula. Start by writing out your formula at the top of the page and label it in a manner that you’ll remember. Below the formula, you can write out definitions, applications, and practice problems. Because the equitation method is especially for formulas, it is often used in science and math problems.

Charting Method

The charting method turns your sheet of paper into an analog spreadsheet. Charts are useful for understanding a wide variety of information. Each column can become its own topic with subtopics and details below each column. In certain situations, each row can correspond to a separate subtopic or detail category.


Understanding how to take effective notes can help streamline your meetings and lectures by giving you a consistent and reliable way to look back at what you learned. These notetaking strategies and methods are essential to learn how to take notes well. Try them all and adjust them to figure out the exact way of taking notes that works for you.

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