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The Cornell note-taking system is a note-taking system devised in the 1950s by Walter Pauk, an education professor at Cornell University. Pauk advocated its use in his best-selling book How to Study in College.
Overview of method
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The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. The student divides the paper into two columns: the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the questions/key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two inches, at the bottom of the page.
Notes from a lecture or teaching are written in the note-taking column; notes usually consist of the main ideas of the text or lecture, and long ideas are paraphrased. Long sentences are avoided; symbols or abbreviations are used instead. To assist with future reviews, relevant questions (which should be recorded as soon as possible so that the lecture and questions will be fresh in the student's mind) or key words are written in the key word column. These notes can be taken from any source of information, such as fiction and nonfiction books, DVDs, lectures, text books, etc.
Within 24 hours of taking the notes, the student must revise and write questions and then write a brief summary in the bottom five to seven lines of the page. This helps to increase understanding of the topic. When studying for either a test or quiz, the student has a concise but detailed and relevant record of previous classes.
When reviewing the material, the student can cover the note-taking (right) column while attempting to answer the questions/keywords in the key word or cue (left) column. The student is encouraged to reflect on the material and review the notes regularly.
Studies on effectiveness
A study published in 2007 by Wichita State University compared two note taking methods in a secondary English classroom, and found that Cornell Note taking may be of added benefit in cases where students are required to synthesize and apply learned knowledge, while the guided notes method appeared to be better for basic recall.
- Herr, Norman (2008), The Sourcebook for Teaching Science, Grades 6-12: Strategies, Activities, and Instructional Resources, John Wiley & Sons, p. 47, ISBN 978-0-7879-7298-1
- Kruse, Darryn (2010), Thinking Tools for the Inquiry Classroom, Curriculum Press, p. 32, ISBN 978-1-74200-311-5
- Pauk, Walter; Owens, Ross J. Q. (2010) , How to Study in College (10 ed.), Cengage Learning, ISBN 978-1-4390-8446-5
- Wong, Linda (2014-01-01). Essential Study Skills (8 ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 288. ISBN 1285430093.
- Jacobs, Keil. A Comparison of Two Note Taking Methods in a Secondary English Classroom Proceedings: 4th Annual Symposium: Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects  Conference proceedings held at the Eugene Hughes Metropolitan Complex, Wichita State University, April 25, 2008. Symposium Chair: David M. Eichhorn
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