Popular Note-Taking Systems

note-takingNeed a useful way to make sense of your notes? There are several different note-taking systems that you can use – including traditional, creative, and digital. You can also combine methods for maximum effectiveness. Here are some of the most popular ones.

Structured: The Outline

The classic outline method is one of the most efficient note-taking formats as it creates meticulously well-organized notes. It uses indentation to record information in a clear hierarchy using headings, subheadings, letters, numbers, dashes, or bullet points. The outline method creates a skeleton of the lecture or textbook chapter, which serves as an excellent study guide. To take notes with the outline method, follow these six steps:

  1. Gather note-taking materials
  2. Outline the main topics
  3. Outline the subtopics
  4. Insert supporting thoughts and facts
  5. Add further details and examples
  6. Review and recite your notes


Visual: The Mind Map

The major difference between outlining and mind map note-taking methods is that outlines focus on words and pre-established linear structures, while mind maps focus on images, shapes and colors. Mind mapping is similar to creating an outline that you might use for a research paper, except that you write the subject or headline in the center of the page and add your notes in the form of branches that radiate outward from the center. Mind maps accurately reflect the process that your mind goes through as you add new information. Mind mapping has benefits on all types of students especially visual learners who like doodling. To draw a mind map, you can follow these steps:

  1. Draw a memorable central image that represents the topic.
  2. Come up with three to five main ideas, then evenly space them around the image.
  3. Draw a line from the mind map topic to each main idea.
  4. From each main idea, draw lines outwards to sub-ideas and thoughts which relate to the main idea.
  5. Use colors, symbols, and images to help you remember key points.

Holistic: Flow Notes

Flow Notes is a holistic note-taking system that allows you to take notes in a way that is more intuitive and natural. It is a method that is designed to help you capture your thoughts and ideas as they come to you, without worrying about structure or organization. Later, you draw arrows between the ideas to show how they relate to each other. This turns your notes into a kind of flowchart. To use Flow Notes for taking notes, you can follow these steps:

  1. Start by writing down the main idea or topic in the center of the page.
  2. Write down any related ideas or subtopics around the main idea.
  3. Draw lines to connect the related ideas to the main idea.
  4. Write down any additional thoughts or ideas that come to mind.
  5. Use arrows or other symbols to indicate relationships between ideas.

For Review: The Cornell Method

The Cornell Method is a systematic and organized way of taking notes that helps you retain more information and review more efficiently. Professor Walter Pauk of Cornell University devised this method in the 1950s. Put simply, it involves dividing a piece of paper into three unequal sections: a key point/question column, a note column, and a summary area. It is a pretty good way of dividing up your notes if you’re looking to get the most out of your review time.

Easy: Writing on Slides

Writing on slides is a note-taking method that entails taking class notes on PowerPoint or Google slides, if the presenter shares the link with you. You don’t have to do it fully electronically; you can print out the slides and take notes on the paper.

Versatile: Bullet Journaling

A bullet journal, also known as a BuJo, is a method of personal organization created by designer Ryder Carroll that combines a planner and a diary. This is a single notebook with dotted pages to “track the past, order the present, and plan the future.” It can be used for note-taking, to-do lists, reminders, brainstorming, and more. You can easily customize your bullet journal to fit your needs and preferences. To start bullet journaling, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a BuJo notebook that you like.
  2. Create an index page.
  3. Create a future log.
  4. Create a monthly log.
  5. Create a daily log.
  6. Add collections.
  7. Add symbols and other markings.

Digital: Note-taking Apps

Prefer to use your computer for taking notes? There are many note-taking apps available for different platforms. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Evernote is one of the oldest and most popular digital note-taking apps available.
  • Microsoft OneNote is a free note-taking app that’s great for taking notes on the go.
  • Apple Notes is a built-in app for Apple users that allows you to take notes and sync them across all your devices.
  • Google Keep is a free note-taking app that is great for Google power users.
  • Notion is a collaboration app that allows you to take notes, create tasks, and manage projects.

Hybrid: Smart Notebook

Prefer writing by hand, but still want to be able to access your notes on your computer? Here’s the perfect solution that combines the best of both worlds! Rocketbooks are a super cool piece of new note-taking technology. A Rocketbook is an eco-friendly, smart, reusable notebook that comes with a Pilot Frixion pen and a microfiber cloth for easy clean up. Simply take your notes, scan them using your phone and the Rocketbook app, and then wipe the book clean with a damp cloth to re-use it virtually indefinitely. Or if you’re using the Rocketbook Wave, you can just throw it in the microwave and nuke it up to three times. Voila! You’ve got a reusable notebook, and digital notes that you didn’t have to type out on your laptop or use a tablet and stylus. This is our favorite notebook by far, and it’s not even very expensive for what you get! Rocketbooks come in many different sizes and styles to suit every purpose. There are Rocketbook notecards too – perfect for research papers!

Do you have a special method that you use for taking notes? Leave a comment!

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