Cornell Note-Taking System

Has anyone tried the Cornell Note-taking System? It looks interesting.

They layout looks like this:

NotesCornell-pd

Here’s a summary:

1. Record: During the lecture, use the note-taking column to record the lecture using telegraphic sentences.
2. Questions: As soon after class as possible, formulate questions based on the notes in the right-hand column. Writing questions helps to clarify meanings, reveal relationships, establish continuity, and strengthen memory. Also, the writing of questions sets up a perfect stage for exam-studying later.
3. Recite: Cover the note-taking column with a sheet of paper. Then, looking at the questions or cue-words in the question and cue column only, say aloud, in your own words, the answers to the questions, facts, or ideas indicated by the cue-words.
4. Reflect: Reflect on the material by asking yourself questions, for example: “What’s the significance of these facts? What principle are they based on? How can I apply them? How do they fit in with what I already know? What’s beyond them?
5. Review: Spend at least ten minutes every week reviewing all your previous notes. If you do, you’ll retain a great deal for current use, as well as, for the exam.

More details:

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What is a “Telegraphic” sentence?

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I’m not sure if this is correct, but Google results suggest that it means a short sentence (<5 words?), because telegraph messages were charged by the word.

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It’s quite a flexible method if you also allow for mind-maps in the notes column and pictures for the keyword column. Not only does the keyword column help with review, it also makes it easier to centralize your notes about a certain topic if it comes up multiple times. I’ve used a modified version a couple times, but not enough to talk about results. It felt right, though, so that’s what was important at the time. I’ll try it out again and update with more details about the modifications that helped it make more sense to me, but I’m in the process of moving, so that may not be soon.

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.
In the UK, these terse sentences were known as “telegraphese”.

The hand-written form was written in all upper-case, to minimize the risk of mis-spellings.

If punctuation were essential, you had to use the actual words.

So, a period was “STOP”

A question mark was “QUERY”.

Quotes were “QUOTE” with another “QUOTE” at the end, and so on. You paid the same for a single punctuation mark as you paid for one word.

Verbs were often omitted to save cost. This sometimes resulted in unintended consequences. One of the most famous telegrams was sent by a newspaper reporter to his office:

HOW OLD CARY GRANT QUERY

The reply was:

FINE STOP HOW YOU QUERY

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I think I’ll try this method of note taking next time I get the chance. With the short sentences it should be fairly easy to memorize the key points later if necessary.

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I used a similar system a professor gave me when I was very committed to getting an A on a test. I would look through my notes and my reading, extract all the information I thought I might be tested on, and create questions to quiz myself on all of it. It took a lot of effort but did pay off.

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I am trying to use this system more and more with SuperMemo. I will keep a text editor open on my second monitor while I read a topic. Questions I think of become flash cards (items) and posted below the text in the knowledge tree. I will often also make short little HTML tables and post that in there as well. I think the power of this system is challenging yourself to synthesize the information you are reading.

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