Strategic Note Taking

Study For Success

Learn about research-backed notetaking strategies to boost your productivity and streamline your notetaking process.

Suggested time

45 minutes

Level of difficulty


Materials needed

  • Pens
  • pencil
  • highlighters
  • ruler
  • notebook
  • laptop

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Notetaking and revision are key components of student life. By making this process more efficient, keep on top of your revision notes and still have time left for play once the work is done.

Did you know that the average human brain will forget more than 50% of the information it has retained within 24 hours of a student leaving a class? This statistic shows us how important it is to take effective study notes so that we can use them to revise and improve how well we retain the information.

We know that notetaking can feel tedious at times, but did you know that streamlining this process using an effective notetaking strategy can boost your productivity and make the task a whole lot easier?

Here’s a breakdown of our top five strategies that have been proven to improve your notetaking efficiency:


The Cornell Method of notetaking was developed in the 1950’s by Professor Walter Pauk of the Cornell University. It’s an effective notetaking strategy that works to systematically organise lesson notes and highlight the key ideas and relationships within the content.

Using this method, the page is divided into three sections:

  1. Cues Section:
    A 2.5-inch wide section to the top left of the page. This section is to be completed after class to add in cues relating to the main ideas, prompts, and questions relevant to the corresponding notes written in section 2.
  2. Notes Section:
    A 6-inch wide section to the right of section 1. This section should be completed during class and will contain main points and details from the class content.
  3. Summary Section:
    A 2-inch tall section at the bottom of the page. This section is to be completed after class and is used to summarise the lesson content concisely.


The Mapping Method of notetaking is a visual system of organising notes by topics and subtopics. This method is often popular with visual learners as it helps them to map out key points in a hierarchical layout to enable the visualisation of connections and points within topics.

Using this method, the ‘main topic’ is stated at the start of the map and the each ‘subtopics’ is branched off the main topic using connection lines. Under each subtopic you can then record key details and points, connecting each in a hierarchical manner.


The Outline Method of notetaking uses a combination of headings, subheadings, bullet points and indentation to organise topic information in a clear hierarchy. This method of notetaking can be particularly useful when working with topics that are content heavy and contain a lot of important information.

Using this method, the ‘main topic’ is stated as a large bold heading, followed by a bulleted ‘subtopic’ and subsequent ‘key points’ which will be indented under the relevant subtopic. This process is then repeated for subsequent topics and subtopics.


The Charting Method of notetaking is sometimes also referred to as “matrix note-taking”, and it consists of organising your class notes into a summary table using columns and rows to separate subtopic information. This method can be useful when reviewing topics that contain a lot of points.

Using this method, the main topic is listed as a heading and the page is split up into columns and rows, with a “table cell” being utilised for each subtopic and its corresponding points. This method is especially useful if notetaking using a laptop or tablet.


The Boxing Method of notetaking uses a series of boxes to visually separate subtopics and their key points. This method is often popular with visual learners as it helps them to easily distinguish between subtopic information. A variety of colours can also be used to further differentiate between subtopics.

Using this method, the main topic is listed as a heading at the top of the page. The subsequent subtopics and their key points are then contained in boxes underneath. Like the Charting Method, this method is particularly useful if notetaking using a laptop or tablet (examples listed below).

How do I know which is best for you?

We recommend trying the methods that stand out most to you first i.e. if you know that you are a visual learner, it might be best to start off trying either the Mapping Method or the Boxing Method. But ultimately, one of the most popular ways to figure out which method works best for you is to use the ‘trial and error’ approach.

‘Trial and error’ is a learning approach that uses active experimentation to trial different approaches to determine which ones work for us and which ones do not. Scientific findings suggest that utilising the ‘trial and error’ approach to learning can change neural pathways in our brains to improve performance.

Helpful apps for notetaking:

Did you know that there are a variety of online apps and programs that are designed to help digitally advance your notetaking? Some of the most well-known of these include:

Download the Notetaking Method Guides:


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