3 easy evidence-based note-taking methods for efficient notes

Taking effective notes is a fundamental skill that can significantly enhance your learning experience. In this blog, we will explore three evidence-based note-taking methods supported by scientific research. These methods are not only proven to boost retention and understanding but are also practical and easy to implement.

The Cornell Method

Scientific Evidence:

A study conducted by Kiewra, DuBois, Christian, McShane, and Meyer in 1991 found that the Cornell Method encourages active learning, leading to better understanding and retention of information. The structured format of this method promotes engagement and reinforces concepts through summarization and self-testing.


a. Divide Your Paper:

Divide your note paper into three sections: a narrow left column (about 2 inches), a wider right column (6 inches), and a section at the bottom (2 inches).

b. Record Main Ideas:

During the lecture or reading, jot down main ideas and keywords in the right column.

c. Summarize and Test Yourself:

After the session, use the left column to create questions or keywords related to the main ideas. Cover the right column and attempt to answer the questions, actively recalling the information.


The Mapping Method

Scientific Evidence:

A study by Pinto, Tarchi, and Martini in 2016 highlighted the effectiveness of visual note-taking methods, such as concept mapping, in improving learning outcomes. Visual aids help organize information spatially, aiding in comprehension and memory recall.


a. Start with a Central Idea:

Place the main concept or topic in the center of your page

b. Branch Out:

Create branches extending from the central idea for subtopics or related concepts.

c. Use Keywords and Images:

Write keywords or short phrases on the branches, accompanied by relevant images or symbols.

d. Connect Ideas:

Draw lines or arrows to connect related ideas, emphasizing relationships between concepts.


The Outline Method: 

Scientific Evidence:

Research by Mueller and Oppenheimer in 2014 compared longhand note-taking with laptop note-taking and found that students who took notes by hand demonstrated better conceptual understanding and long-term retention. The outline method, a form of structured handwriting, promotes organization and focus.


a. Create Headings and Subheadings:

Use a hierarchical structure with main headings and subheadings to organize information.

b. Indentation for Subordination:

Indent subpoints under main headings to visually represent the hierarchy of information.

c. Abbreviate and Use Bullet Points:

Condense information into brief phrases or bullet points to capture key ideas.

Incorporating evidence-based note-taking methods into your learning routine can significantly improve your comprehension, retention, and recall of information. Whether you prefer the active engagement of the Cornell Method, the visual organization of the Mapping Method, or the structured clarity of the Outline Method, each approach offers a unique advantage. Experiment with these methods to discover which works best for you, and enjoy the benefits of more efficient and effective note-taking!

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