All the Note-Taking Methods Explained

Up until fairly recently, I was unaware that there were different methods of note-taking that people used in school and college. I spent most of my years as a student developing my own system of writing notes– whatever came to mind at the moment. I would write them down as bullet points, make mind maps, and even draw tiny doodles. I didn’t find any of them particularly effective and I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve been a better student if I had followed any one of the methods that I will be explaining in this post.

If you, like me, are unaware of any of these methods, you might find that you have unconsciously been using at least one of them all along. Nearly all them are simple and easy to follow, with only a few requiring some preparation in advance.

While researching these techniques, I found that most articles went into long-winded explanations, and rarely provided any examples. In the absence of an actual classroom lecture to provide as an example, I am using this excerpt from a Wikipedia article on World War 1:

This is how the above information would be noted down using the different methods of note-taking:


Most of you probably use this method without realising it. This is how it would work:

The indentations and numbering are very important. Without them, your notes will be very dense, making it difficult to see the relationship between topics. Use shorthand as much as possible, and you will be able to focus on the lecture more.


The Cornell Method requires dividing your page into four different sections, as seen below.

Make sure to write the summary at the end of the class. This section will be very useful when you are revising. The Cornell Method is very popular, and has been found to be pretty effective. The only downside to it is that you need to prepare your pages in advance.


As the name suggests, this technique requires making a table, and writing down the information into the relevant rows and columns, like this:

Much like the Cornell Method, charting requires you to prepare in advance, and the only way you will know how to build your table is if you know the content of the lecture in advance. Furthermore, this method is good for only certain subjects like history, statistics and even chemistry.


You’re all probably familiar with mind maps. This method is basically the same thing.


Like the Outline Method, the sentence method is unconsciously used by most of us. It simply involves writing down every fact in a new line, and numbering it.

Since the Sentence Method uses only numbering, it results in big blocks of notes on a page, which might not be very appealing when you study them.


This is a lazier form of the Cornell Method.

This is basically the Cornell Method without the summary at the bottom. It is a lot faster to write these notes though, as it just requires a line drawn down the middle (in terms of preparation).

Apart from the techniques mentioned above, there is the little known Boxing Method. I do not know how effective it is, but you can check it out here.

Have you developed a method of your own that’s not mentioned above? Share them in the comments below!

If you need inspiration for note-taking, check out our Pinterest board here.



  1. I would like to clarify the description of T-Notes. T-Notes is NOT similar to Cornell notes. It has only become similar to Cornell because people have forgotten the main points of using T-Notes and over time, T-Notes has blended with Cornell and has been weakened by Cornell.
    T-Notes was developed by Archie Davis at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, IL. I was trained to use T-Notes by Archie. The description you provide here is NOT how T-notes was intended to be used. I taught T-notes as part of my study skills class at ASU (AZ). If you’d like a more accurate demonstration, please contact me. T-Notes is WAY more powerful than Cornell and as shown here, the columns are being used incorrectly. T-Notes is part of a study system and positions the student to easily prepare for all exams by also serving as instant flash-cards by covering one column with a piece of paper and quizzing oneself to remember the opposite column.
    T-Notes has rules for how and where vocabulary words are captured. There are rules for how lists are created. There are rules for how diagrams are captured and for how notes are taken for textbook readings. Your demo serves to make T-notes look like Cornell when there are so many more levels to how T-notes were developed.
    I wish someone would re-publish Archie’s book, “T-Notes and Other Study Skills”, but it is now out of print and everyone is forgetting how to use the system.


    1. Hi Clint! Thanks so much for your comment. We really appreciate all the feedback we can get.
      The T-notes description in our post is based on what little we could find about it online (we hadn’t heard about it at all until we stumbled upon it in a post about Cornell notes). Any explanation you could give us about T-notes would be greatly appreciated. We will make the corrections to our post.


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