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Cornell Notes

Cornell Notes Method Explained (with Examples!)

Taking notes should be a pretty simple process. That is what you think before entering the vaults of academic knowledge, eager to learn and take everything you can from your professors.

Write down the key points from a lecture or text and voila - notes! But, that works for a simple topic or a few thoughts about something you read. But there are also plenty of occasions, especially when it comes to schoolwork, where you can benefit from a more thorough method of taking notes. If you're doing research for a paper, sifting through a complicated lecture, or reading for a class, you'll save yourself time and a lot of work if you learn to take good remarks.

This topic has interested writers and education professionals for a long time. Experts over the years have put forward a variety of systems (you can even find studies comparing the effectiveness of each). Out of the ton of research and methods emerged the one that we will be discussing today - the Cornell method.

Cornell Notes Definition

The method in question was developed in the 1950s by a Cornell University education professor. In this system, the page is divided into three sections: two columns and a row along the bottom.

  • The right-hand column, which should take up about 2/3 of the width of the page, is for taking notes. You should copy down the main ideas of the lecture or text you're reading. Focus on keeping your sentences short and on paraphrasing the original wording. You should be processing the information and writing it down in easy-to-understand language, not just repeating the lesson word-for-word.
  • The left hand, which should take up about 1/3 of the page, is for keywords as well as questions you have about the lesson or text. The idea here is that instead of burying questions inside a long list of notes, they can be pulled out to the side where they're easy to see, making it simple to go back and review areas you didn't understand. The visibility of the keywords will also help in the review practice. You can skim the left-hand column and look for keywords instead of having to pick through pages of notes. Including questions and keywords as you go will also help you to synthesize what you're hearing or reading. You're not just writing it down, you're also thinking about what it means and why each idea is important.
  • The space at the bottom of the page should be used for summarizing your notes.

Shortly after taking the notes, you want to read back over them and condense all the notes on the page into a few sentences. Working on this section is a great way to review! Creating the summary will also help you memorize the material. The space at the bottom will help you find a particular concept in your notes. Instead of reading through dozens of pages, you can simply flip through and read the summaries until you find what you need.

The Purpose of the System

Dr. Pauk, the creator, designed the Cornell note-taking method with an important purpose in mind. By revising the memos you've made with the help of this system a little every day, you make sure that you can memorize and recall the material later.

The information put down in an organized manner serves as your guide through the studied facts and ideas. The delightful thing here is that you can apply this system to anything you want! We will rehash what the Cornell notes template is used for by students all over the world and time.

Class lectures

This is a fantastic way to keep memos from a class lecture or seminar organized. You should use the right-hand column to keep track of questions that come up and pen down the important vocabulary on the left. Later, you can take a few minutes to summarize the day's info at the bottom. It makes it easy to keep track of the material you've covered in class and will help when it's time to review for quizzes and tests.


If you're reading for a class, taking notes in an already familiar way can help you keep your thoughts organized. In the right-hand column, you can record important quotes, themes, symbols, or ideas from the reading. In the left, you can write down questions and comments for class. As was mentioned above, summarizing at the bottom is a good way to memorize the material and synthesize everything that you've just read.


If you're doing research for a paper, you need a system to organize all the work you've done. If you take the Cornell-style notes, you get a range of benefits. You can keep track of all your sources - create a single page for every source you've read. Use keywords to group together related sources and interconnected ideas. When it comes to writing your paper, you can use the keywords and summaries to quickly find what you need.

Cornell Notes Example

Here's an example of a what a Cornell note for a reading assignment might look like.


The Great Gatsby
Reading assignment, p. 65-73
Introduction of KlipspringerCh. 4 opens with a list of all the impressive people that show up for Gatsby's parties.
Gatsby's "history"Nick goes for a ride with Gatsby, who interrogates him about his opinion of Gatsby, during which Gatsby presents his fake backstory: "He hurried the phrase "educated at Oxford," or swallowed it or choked on it as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt, his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn't something a little sinister about him." (p. 69)
Nick seems to enjoy Gatsby's ostentatious wealth; when does he stop and become the cynical man we see at the beginning of the novel?When they pass a hearse, Nick says that he "was glad that the sight of Gatsby's splendid car was included in their somber holiday" (p. 73). This is callous of Nick and doesn't reflect well on him.

Nick lists all the impressive people that come to Gatsby's parties. The two then go on a ride in Gatsby's "splendid car," and Gatsby tells Nick is extravagant life story. He also requests a favor from Nick, to be further discussed with Jordan Baker.

Optimize Your Work!

Studying is always a bother when you come to think about it. In order to make yourself into a respectable member of society, you have to put yourself through years of tiring classes and assignments.

It is only natural to look for ways that would help you ease the burden of academic struggles. This method is only one of those little helpers you can use on your path, so you should make sure you are using it to its full potential. Use our Cornell notes templates to boost your chances of memorizing all the materials!

Ah, but this the method described in this article is not the only outsourcing tool you may use! Our professional writing service provides help to students who struggle with their coursework load and want someone to help them out.

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