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Note-taking styles

Traditional style

This method is based on outlining techniques. It requires using Roman numerals, capital letters, cardinal numbers and small letters. Using this note-taking method determines hierarchy of information when alternately using numbers and letters. See below.

  • (Roman numeral = topic)
  • (Capital letter = subtopic)
  • (Regular numeric order = sub-subtopic)
  • (Small letter = details of subtopics)

The traditional style can be very time-consuming, and when trying to capture and understand a variety of material during a lecture, it is easy to get too focused on the pattern or method and lose your focus on the information.


This method is based on the traditional method, but does not emphasize intense use of letters and numbers. This technique suggests using a designation to show the main topic of the lecture such as ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, bold writing, inserting a Roman numeral, underlining or enclosing the writing in  a box or circle.

The next step is to indent additional information about that topic under that heading. The more detailed the information, the deeper the indent. See sample below.

  • Main Topic
  • Sub topic
  • detail
  • Sub topic
  • detail
  • detail

Using the modified method is helpful during a very informative, fast-paced lecture because the format is less important than the information.

Cornell method

This note taking method easily separates the topic from the sub-topics and details because they will be written on separate, divided parts of your page of notes. This method begins by drawing a line on the right side of the page in your notebook. This line should begin at the top of the page, approximately 2-3 inches from the spiral binding. This action has now created a topic column for you to use when taking notes. All details will fall on the other side of that line. It is very easy to create an order of importance, subtopics and details using this method.


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