The Cornell Note-Taking System

Taking effective notes while reading a text or listening to a lecture is an important part of active reading. This resource will teach you about one strategy for effective note-taking called the Cornell Note-Taking System. After you read, try reading it again and practicing your active reading by implementing this system. 

The Cornell note-taking system was designed by Dr. Walter Pauk more than 45 years ago. It is named after a well-known Ivy League university in the US and is used in universities worldwide. It has five steps:


1: Record

  • Read a chunk of text and decide what is important for your notes.
  • Use the heading and subheadings as your outline headings
  • Double-space between headings
  • Under the headings, number your details
  • Use phrases or short sentences to summarize the information
  • Put smaller details under the numbered details as bullet points
  • At the end of the notes, write a summary paragraph


2: Reduce

  • Copy the headings from the Notes to the left column
  • Reread your notes and write study questions: "Why...?", "Name the reasons for..."
  • Define keywords
  • DON'T write too much!

3: Recite 

  • Explain the information in your own words (cover the right column)
  • Answer the questions you wrote in the reduce column (left)
  • After you finish a section, check the record column (right) and see if you missed anything
  • Mark the information you want to return to later


4: Reflect

  • Think about the information you have recorded, reduced, and recited
  • LIne up the Recall columns and write a summary of the main ideas
  • Write mnemonic devices, graphs, charts, pictures on the back of your pages


5: Review 

  • Review your notes after the reflect step
  • Keep reviewing your notes throughout the course


If you would like to have a template for taking these notes, you may download this Microsoft Word document.

Source: Essential Study Skills
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2021, 1:05 PM