Note Taking Strategies: Find The Most Suitable One For You

In this article, you’ll learn the importance of having a strategy in place for effective note taking so you can create better notes. We’ll review five popular note-taking strategies which are used by different kinds of people in multiple situations and we’ll help you identify the best technique for you.

This guide will help you to understand the different note taking strategies that are commonly used and show you how they look and exactly who they're for. Hopefully you'll resonate with at least one of the strategies and adopt it in your note taking practices.

We'll be covering these note taking strategies:

  • The Cornell Strategy
  • The Mind Mapping Strategy
  • The Charting Strategy
  • The Sentence Strategy
  • The Outlining Strategy

Identify Your Note Taking Purpose

First things first, to be a successful note-taker, you need to explore and develop your own style of notetaking based on the purpose those notes will have. Before you start taking digital notes, identify how you will most likely want to use them later and then choose the best fitting strategy.

Choose what to write (and what not to write)

Some people think they need to write detailed information when taking notes (especially lecture notes). We hope this is not you! If you focus on capturing every single detail, you might be missing important information in the 'bigger picture'.

On the contrary, if you mostly listen and don’t write much down, when it comes time to use your notes, you may find that you don’t have much to work with. There's not one single way for effective note taking—knowing what works best for you in different situations will make your note-taking process more effective.

Why having a note taking strategy is important 

Note taking is an important skill that is considered to be critical for success in the academic and professional environment. There are a number of note-taking strategies that can be used, depending on the nature of the lecture, meeting or presentation and on individual preferences. Whatever strategy is used, a systematic and organized approach is critical. Without a well-defined one, your note-taking process may stall or even fail.

Although note taking is a common strategy usually applied in school class notes from a young age, it should not be assumed that people are familiar with note-taking methods or that they are skilled in the recording of information.

Successful note taking involves attentiveness, listening skills, concentration, writing skills, and general curiosity and motivation to learn about the subject in question. In other words, don't just rely on the handout, note taking is not as simple and straightforward as people may think. In fact, it requires a good amount of study time, hard work and mental efforts to earn the retention but those efforts result in better recall and improved success.

The 5 Most Effective Note Taking Strategies

The Cornell Strategy

The Cornell Note Taking Method is a system for taking, organizing and reviewing notes. Professor Walter Pauk of Cornell University conceived this method in the 1950s and outlined it in his book, How to Study in College. The Cornell note taking method is a guided strategy for actively engaging with what you’re learning. It requires very little preparation which makes it ideal for note taking in a classroom or during a client meeting.

Using this effective note-taking strategy is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is divide your paper notebook or digital canvas into four sections.

The left column is the cue

Usually called a "cue" and is used to write down all kinds of questions and comments about what you’re learning (like if you agree/disagree) and the key ideas discussed. Traditionally this section is used after taking notes.

The right column hosts the notes

Is for notes. This is where you write your main notes from a lecture, video, or meeting. Here you are focused on recording the main points and ideas.

The bottom row is the summary

Here is where you can place the summary. You’ll place a few bullet points or abbreviations that summarise everything you learned into your own words. This part can be challenging but don’t skip it! Taking facts and distilling them into main ideas is a powerful learning tool.

The top row hosts the topic and date

Is for topic and date. Having this information at the top of your page will help you gather together multiple Cornell notes, organize them and see the progress you have done and the main things you have learned.

Eventually, we should get something that looks a little like this: 

The Cornell note-taking strategy in Scrintal.

This note taking strategy is for you if you are a logical and/or spatial learner.

The Mind Mapping Strategy

Mind maps are diagrams used to visually organize information. They help you to get ideas down when you can't think where to start. Mind mapping is a great technique when you need to see connections and provide an overview of key points. You may already be familiar with this technique if you’ve ever: searched for note-taking strategies for middle or high school, been tasked with writing an academic essay, or been diagnosed with dyslexia. 

Although the term "mind map" was first popularized by British psychology author and television personality Tony Buzan, the use of diagrams that visually "map" information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others.

How to create a mind map in 4 simple steps

  • Start with the topic at the center
  • Place key sub-topics radiating around that main topic.
  • Add key concepts and ideas radiating around those sub-topics.
  • Keep growing your mind map by including new sub-topics and concepts until your mind map about your chosen topic is complete.
The Mind-mapping note-taking strategy in Scrintal.

This note taking strategy is highly visual and useful for revision which makes it ideal for visual learners.

The Charting Strategy

The charting strategy is a note-taking method that uses charts to condense and organize notes. It involves splitting a document into several columns and rows which are then filled with summaries of information. This note-taking format allows you to make efficient comparisons between different topics and ideas.

The charting method is very efficacious and although is not suitable for every case, it’s good for taking notes on subjects that have:

  • Factual and/or statistical information;
  • Subtopics that are directly comparable to each other;
  • Information that can be compartmentalized into tables.

To get started with this method of note taking, you should:

  • Identify the topics and categories you’ll spread out in your chart.
  • Create a new chart in the form of table
  • Insert the topics or categories into the columns’ headings
  • Fill in the empty cells with notes.
The Charting note-taking strategy in Scrintal.

The Sentence Strategy

The sentence method is a simple and versatile note-taking method. It holds value during fast-paced lectures or meetings. However, it’s not the most efficient method. The sentence method is a technique you don’t really want to use unless there’s no other option available.

This method of note-taking uses line spacing to separate thoughts, concepts, and ideas from one another. Every time a new idea is introduced it is written on a new line, resulting in notes with large quantities of sentences in a vertical order.

It is advised to number each sentence as you take notes so you have a way to distinguish the different concepts. Once you’re finished reading, rewrite your notes and organize the sentences into themes or categories. This will make it easier to review them when you want to look at your notes again.

The Sentence note-taking strategy in Scrintal.

This note taking strategy is for you if you are attending some fast-paced classes or a last minute meeting and you are completely unprepared.

The Outline Strategy

The outline method is consistently ranked as one of the best note-taking methods. It is a method that’s remarkably well-suited for online learning and work as it benefits from methodical, self-paced categorization of information.

This is similar to the sentence strategy, but with a more organized layout. Instead of randomly writing one sentence after another, sentences are grouped according to main points.

The outlining method is perhaps the most common form of note taking used by college students; an outline naturally organizes the information in a highly structured, logical manner, forming a skeleton of the textbook chapter or lecture subject that serves as an excellent study guide when preparing for tests.

This method of note taking is extremely useful in most instances; however, in classes, such as math or chemistry, where a lot of formulas, graphs, or structures must be drawn, the outline method should be replaced with a better note-taking system.

Taking notes with The Outline Method

  • Gather note-taking materials
  • Outline the main topics
  • Outline the subtopics
  • Insert supporting thoughts and facts
  • Add further details and examples
  • Review and recite your notes
The Outline note-taking strategy in Scrintal.

This note taking strategy is for you if you want to:

  • emphasize content as well as relationships between the information.
  • reduce the time needed for editing and allows for easy reviewing.
  • give thought to accurate, understandable organization.


Human beings are highly visual by nature. Communicating visually and combining text and visuals has always been a powerful way to capture and share ideas. Where 65% of the population identifies themselves as visual learners, visual note taking is a no-brainer. In this article we covered 5 note-taking strategies useful for work, college and life that have more or less visual elements implied and can be best applied to the Scrintal note taking software that takes advantage of mind mapping connect capabilities. It is important that you adopt and adapt these techniques to your own style, resources and to the situation you are involved in.

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