Everyone knows that students (and anyone else who is in a learning process) are required to synthesize and apply knowledge if they want to consolidate them in the medium and long term. However, few people suggest methods or systems that facilitate taking notes. The Cornell Notesmethod is a system for taking notes created by Walter Pauk (Professor, Cornell University) in the 1950s. The system Cornell Notes proposes the following workflow:


  1. Divide the paper into three sections. Draw a dark horizontal line about 5 or 6 lines from the bottom. Draw a dark vertical line about 2 inches from the left side of the paper from the top to the horizontal line.
  2. Write course name, date, and topic at the top of each page.
  3. Write notes in the large box to the right. Skip a line between ideas and topics. Don’t use complete sentences. Use abbreviations, whenever possible. Develop a shorthand of your own, such as using “&” for the word “and”.
  4. Review the notes as soon as possible after class. Pull out main ideas, key points, dates, and people, and write these in the left column. This helps to increase understanding of the topic.
  5. Summarize. Write a summary of the main ideas in the bottom section.
  6. Re-read your notes in the right column. Spend most of your time studying the ideas in the left column and the summary at the bottom. These are the most important ideas and will probably include most of the information that you will be tested on.

Some people suggest replace the previous step 4, writing questions according to the note in the right column. When reviewing the material, students can cover the note-taking (right) column while attempting to answer the questions/keywords in the key word or cue (left) column.


You can find several templates on the web. For more information, you can read the best-seller book of Water Pauk:

  • Pauk, Walter; Owens, Ross J. Q. (2010) [1962], How to Study in College (10 ed.), Cengage Learning, ISBN 978–1–4390–8446–5