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5 Note Taking Methods Find Your Match

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

Find the style of notes that best suits you

hand holding pen and writing on paper

Notes help us to navigate and process information. The trick is knowing your note-taking options. Learning coursework and necessary career information without a consistent note-taking strategy definitely added more stress and pushed time to the extreme limits. Not to mention the information didn't stick.

The fact is that knowledge is acquired when we fully engage through notes combined with practice, application, and discussion. So clear your mind, remove distractions, and let's look at five practical note-taking methods.


If you are reading, outlining your reading notes will help identify the essential categories and the supporting information for each area. Also, outlined notes could be helpful if an instructor or speaker delivers information categorically during a lecture or training.


  1. Write the main topics to the far left of your paper.

  2. Underneath, indent slightly to the right to add subcategories.

  3. Add related supporting details, facts, explanations, or questions to the right and beneath each subcategory.


Outlines are organized and visually convenient for studying, writing, or questioning.

They also assist in identifying any areas or topics that may need more information before a writing assignment.


Identifying the correlation between different information points during a lecture or presentation is difficult.


Cornell Notes Template: 3 sections: vocabulary or concepts, notes, and summary

Divide the paper into three sections:

  1. Narrow left column: Add vocabulary, questions, or topics

  2. Wider right column: Add the definitions, answers, or explanations to accompany the content of the left column.

  3. One-third to the bottom of the paper: Add a summary of the notes written above.


Cornell Notes are excellent for quizzing yourself. You can fold the paper to view only the vocabulary terms, questions, or topics. Also, summarizing each notes page helps with information retention or can be added to a writing assignment.


Ordering or organizing an outline can be difficult if the teacher or facilitator does not provide information in a topical method or the speaker speaks too quickly.

Mind Mapping


  1. Place the topic at the top, center of your paper, and box the word(s).

  2. Beneath the top box, write across the page each of the categories that apply to the topic.

  3. Add details for each corresponding category on the following line of the paper.

  4. Place boxes around each of the categories and elaboration. Draw lines connecting the topic to the categories and, next, the categories to the corresponding details.

Essentially you are creating a web of information.


This form of Mind Mapping is suitable for denoting hierarchy, classification, sequence, or layered description.


Hierarchy mind maps are not as useful with complex concepts.

Frayer Model


frayer Model Template: 4 sections: Explanation, Characteristics, Examples, Non Examples

  1. Divide the paper into four equal squares with a smaller box in the center of the page.

  2. Draw a smaller center box and add the essential term or concept

  3. Left top square: Add definition or explanation

  4. Right top square: Describe the characteristics of the term or concept

  5. Left bottom square: Write examples of the vocabulary or concept.

  6. Right bottom square: Write non-examples that may be confused as being associated with the term but are not.


The Frayer Model helps to thoroughly understand a new vocabulary term or concept, especially those that are more technical, rigorous, or multi-faceted. Interacting with vocabulary or ideas in this model helps to engage your brain at levels of application and synthesis, which are higher than simply memorization.

You may choose to add a condensed version to flash cards. The emphasis of this method is to interact with new words and concepts beyond the definition.


The process is more time-consuming and does not offer a snapshot view of multiple terms and concepts as other note-taking methods.

Sentence Method


  1. During a lecture, presentation, or reading, write notes about pertinent information.

  2. Number each new topic.

  3. Add a sentence about the topic and subsequent sentences with supporting details about that same topic.

  4. Number each new topic as you go along.

  5. Concentrate on capturing essential information and its accuracy.

  6. After initial note-taking, you can further categorize by color coding the numbers with similar topics or rewrite illegible writing.


The sentence method helps note-taking quickly, especially when keeping up with the speaker's speed.


Categorizing occurs in a separate step instead of during the original notes. Therefore, seeing the connections between concepts while note-taking can be challenging.

Now that we've reviewed some note-taking options, the next step is to find the method that better fits the topic and your personal style.

One last tip:

Add headings to each note page. The topic and date at the top of the page can be helpful when the weeks and months go by, and you find yourself collecting notes for an upcoming presentation, test, or project.

Remember: Each note-taking method is perfect for handwritten or digital notes.

Looking for more note-taking tips? Take a look at this article with strategies for taking notes in your own words.


Join the Focus & Flow Collaborative.

Staying focused enough to take notes during a reading assignment or revise and organize recent notes can be difficult alone. We facilitate work sessions, which give us time to meet virtually body double each other for shared accountability. You'll leave the work session with another task done and feeling productive.

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