Cornell notes: What are they?


Max Brabham, Reporter

When it comes to taking notes, the cornell style is often the most advocated. Opinion on this type of note taking style can fall under loved, hated, or anything in between. As of the 2019 school year, Richland School District 2 has been strongly advocating for teachers to use cornell notes along with other practices that are taught in AVID classes, and while the effectiveness of these notes cannot be denied, students sometimes struggle with the process and may end up putting more focus into following the styles guidelines rather than focusing on the information being provided to them in class.

“I spend too much time trying to figure how much a third of a piece of paper is instead of trying to retain information from what the teacher is telling us and I think my time would be much better suited doing that instead,” Sophomore Noah Adams said.

This among other things may make cornell notes seem like more of a hindrance rather than a benefit, due to this, it might be good for students to see the pros and cons that go with doing all of the steps in taking cornell notes to help them decide if they would benefit from using cornell notes, and see some tips that might help make cornell notes easier use.

The costs:

The use of cornell notes may come with many benefits such as being able to better remember information, “As in individual takes in information, schemata are activated and this prior knowledge is used to make meaning. In order for new learning to be retained and retrievable for later use, the material must be stored in meaningful ways. Schemata influence how individuals process information and what they learn (eggen & Kauchak, 2013),” (Impact of the cornell note-taking method on students, 28). Quoted from a South Dakota college paper on the impacts of cornell notes. It still isn’t without it’s problems or difficulties, students may have a hard time discerning what parts of lessons are important from what parts are not entirely necessary to write down: “Notes should be purposeful, i’ve seen people students and myself just take notes to write words down, every word needs to have a meaning, if your writing down words that doesn’t have any meaning to you then you’re not learning anything.” AP Microeconomics teacher John Moody stated.

Steps to cornell notes taking.

Also as stated in the college paper, “It is difficult to listen, write and select important information all at once (Konrad et al., 2009). Students often assume that anything shown on the blackboard or screen is important and write everything (Baker & Lombardi, 1985). Other students will record verbatim everything that is said, which is ineffective and possibly detrimental to learning, as their focus on catching every word takes away from their focus on the information given in the lecture (Boyle, 2007; Kiewra & Benton, 1988). Just copying what is seen or heard does not lead to comprehension (Piolat et al., 2004). (Borr Duffield Napoleon and Welch 30).” (Impact of the cornell note-taking method on students, 28).


Students do not like to change their own styles, “I think that students don’t like that the format is very specific, I think students like to feel like they have some agency over the way they take their notes and so I can see some pushback in that regard” English 2 teacher Samantha Rainwater stated. Mr. Moody also states that: “So the problems would be the resistance for change, students will want to do something that they are used to,”

Lastly, it is a lot harder to be able to focus on both note taking and the information that is provided in a lecture formatted class: “Other difficulties include balancing the effort of writing and listening at the same time, deciding which items are important to note, and writing fast enough” (Impact of the cornell note-taking method on students, 30). Which overall makes it much harder to do either of them efficiently, and takes away from the benefits of cornell notes and note taking overall.

Tips and benefits.

As a sort of balancing act to the amount of effort that cornell notes take to use, they also come with just as much if not more benefits overall, and to lessen the burden that students may have taking cornell notes, here are some possible tips from teachers and students to help:


List of tips and benefits on cornell notes.


If you still feel like you’re having trouble with cornell notes, then ask your teachers and friends as they might be able to help you out.