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The Cornell Method

While the classification method of notetaking allocates one theme to each page, another method of notetaking is the Cornell Method which allocates one source to each page.

As illustrated below in Figure 2, the method divides your note-taking page into three columns:

bullet the first column is for the thematic categorisation of the notes

bullet the second column is for the notes themselves

bullet the third is for your own interpretations, comments and cross-referencing.


Figure 2: The layout of the Cornell Method of note-taking

Bibliographic details: author, title, publisher, place, date
Reactions/ Insights/
Cross-references/ Ideas/
Confusions/ Questions
You use this column to indicate which theme the notes relate to. This column is for your notes; direct or indirect quotations

Always include page numbers at the end of all quotations to avoid mistakes in referencing.
This column is where you can begin the note-making process by critically evaluating the information, asking questions and cross-referencing with what you have already noted in other readings.



The benefit of this approach is that you do not remain a passive note-taker, but combine a critical and evaluative approach to note-taking. The following is an outline of the note-taking process using the Cornell Method.


Steps in the Note-taking process.

Take Notes
on the themes which you identify as being directly relevant to the question. Remain flexible on adding or omitting themes as your understanding of the topic develops.
Cross Reference
your notes according to their themes and make interpretations on their significance and validity in relation to each other and the question.
Draw the connections
between the literature/ themes and consider how you will logically develop your argument in answer to the question.
Write a plan,
and begin writing with all your evidence, interpretations and cross-referencing in front of you.
Write up the argument
you have already carefully considered using the necessary evidence. Only include highly relevant quotes. (go to next)

See an example of the Cornell Method


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Direct and Indirect Quotes Example Recommended Strategies Introduction