notetaking_methods

Every student is constantly looking for tried and true methods, tools, and techniques to make their study process more effective.

And note taking on lectures and textbooks is a skill that no student can live without.

Why?

Note taking is a convenient way to record any material for future review. It makes it easy to refresh the information in your memory as soon as you look at your notes. It also helps you find out the origin of facts and ideas, as well as your thoughts about them.

Effective note taking will let you:

  • Discover and record the main ideas of the covered material
  • Focus on the relevant data
  • Memorize information faster

The note taking techniques listed in this article can be used for any discipline, depending on the type of information that you need to remember. Some of the methods offer a multi-purpose design that is effective for a wide variety of classes.

Plus, all of these notes organizers are broken down into groups for your convenience. You are free to download any of these templates and use them for your classes.

Prepare for reading

Prepare for reading

Before you start reading and analyzing any given text, make sure you’re ready. These two note taking methods will guide you through questions and directions to help you get acquainted with a new textbook or book before you actually start reading it. They will save you a considerable amount of time and effort.

  1. Textbook Feature Analysis

This is a template with guidelines to explore a textbook.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to make an overall evaluation of a textbook before they actually start studying it.

Who knows?

Maybe you’ll discover that you don’t even need to really study it at all!

Download a free template for this method

  1. Pre-Reading Notes

This sheet is an effective tool to reinforce your note taking skills. Just scan your book, and answer the questions listed in the right-hand field.

Perfect choice for:

Students who have no time to carefully read a chapter, book, or article but still want to get an A+ on their reading assignment.

Download a free template for this method

Read and analyze

Reading literature like novels or plays involves a different approach compared to studying a textbook. In most cases, the meaning of the author’s words is implied, so you have to dive deep into the world of figurative language to finally get to the essence of the words. This section offers note taking methods to help you understand what the author means and learn how to discuss it.

Even better:

You can also use some of these techniques to explore certain scientific processes, study historical events, or examine other disciplines more effectively.

  1. Process Notes

This one-page chart will help you study the stages of different processes.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to analyze some process but still want to have fun while studying. This tool can be somewhat entertaining when it comes to visualizing key moments or stages.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Reciprocal Notes

Use this note recording method to determine the important events and details of the material you’re studying.

Perfect choice for:

Students asked to dive deep into the details of a plot/social phenomena/artistic work/etc.

Knock your professor’s socks off with your competence: read far below surface level with the help of a few simple questions.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Response to Literature

With the help of the stems in this template, you’ll easily assess the material you’ve gotten acquainted with.

Perfect choice for:

Students who have to express their feelings and attitudes about the literature they’re reading.

Download a free template for this method

  1. SQ3R Notes

This name of this effective reading strategy template stands for its five consecutive steps: Survey. Question. Read. Recite. Review.

Perfect choice for:

Students who are asked to go the extra mile when reading a given selection. Following this method is almost a guarantee of getting the highest grade.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Q Notes

This tool combines the features of SQ3R with the Cornell note taking method. Are you ready to quiz yourself by folding over a sheet of paper and answering your own questions?

Perfect choice for:

Those who need to make notes to prepare for exams on reading.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Inference Notes

With the target illustration in this template, you might think you’re at a shooting range.

Hardly!

Just incorporate six different facts or examples with their explanations in the target’s outer ring.

Perfect choice for:

Students who have to analyze anyone or anything in any subject. This template works great if you need to come up with your own inferences about a certain fictional character.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Think Aloud

We are always thinking while we read, but oftentimes our thinking is not as focused as it should be. Thinking aloud is a strategy to build your comprehension while reading and improve your analytical and speaking skills.

Perfect choice for:

  • Readers who tend to think about anything except reading while reading.
  • Anyone looking for helpful phrases and sentence stems to develop their thinking aloud skills.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Interactive Notes

These Before/During/After notes will accompany you throughout the entire reading process. You should answer the questions in the columns and add brief details, associations, or comments.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need:

  • Written notes to instantly recall and discuss the topic they covered.
  • Useful prompts for further writing about the piece they’ve read.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Summary Notes

This note taking template will smoothly lead you to write a great summary of a chapter, book, or article that you have to speak or write about.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to present a compelling summary that deserves a high grade.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Persuasion Notes

Are you struggling to find and organize facts to persuade someone to take your position?

Then why not use a ready-made note taking template in PDF?

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to write a persuasive essay or simply justify their position about something.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Judge’s Notes

This effective note taking strategy prepares you to write a paper in which you state your opinion backed up by solid evidence. With this template, you’ll have a real chance of persuading your opponents.

Perfect choice for:

Students who want to feel what it’s like to bring in a fair verdict supported by strong evidence.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Reporter’s Notes

This note taking template allows you to act like a reporter and deeply analyze any material using just seven simple questions as your tool.

Perfect choice for:

Those who need to get to the heart of any matter/issue/problem.

Download a free template for this method

  1. KWHL Chart

Despite its strange name, this chart can come in handy. Students should use this tool before, during, and after learning a new topic in any class.

Perfect choice for:

Students who are facing a serious academic struggle. With just four questions, you’ll quickly and effectively address your research problem, no matter how difficult or unusual it is.

Download a free template for this method

Compare, contrast, and evaluate

As students, you frequently get assignments to:

  • Compare and contrast certain things, ideas, features, etc.
  • Identify different degrees or categories of things.

These activities are very useful as they develop your critical and analytical thinking and encourage you to get a deeper understanding of the topic.

The templates in this section will facilitate this process for you.

  1. Think in Threes Triangle

You’re probably used to comparing and contrasting two objects.

But what about going beyond “yes” and “no” or “good” and “bad”?

Perfect choice for:

Students who have to compare three objects or ideas.

Download a free template for this method

  1. T-Chart Notes

You can use this two-column organizer for various assignments and purposes.

Perfect choice for:

Students who have to:

  • Compare and contrast anything (e.g. novels, characters, historical events).
  • Create a list of causes and effects.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Spreadsheet Notes

You can use this generic spreadsheet for almost any subject. This method helps you recognize and embrace many features at once.

Perfect choice for:

Students assigned to compare:

  • Novels, events, characters, projects, etc.
  • Different features of a certain object/concept.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Venn Diagram Notes

A Venn diagram is used to help you compare and contrast different things.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to find shared and distinct features of ideas, books, facts, characters, events, etc.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Continuum

This note taking method in PDF will help you evaluate and organize what you read, write, hear, or watch on a continuum.

Perfect choice for:

Students looking for an easy method to determine different degrees or categories for the given concepts.

Download a free template for this method

Create maps, charts, and outlines

Organizing the material you’re learning into maps or charts, as well as outlining it, helps you quickly grasp and review all the necessary facts.

This way you can:

  • Arrange your information logically.
  • Show relationships.
  • Stay consistent.

Feel free to download any of the free note taking templates offered in this section!

  1. Cornell Notes

The Cornell method of note taking is a traditional and widely used system to record, review, and retain any material. You can use Cornell notes to write in your notebook, on a sheet of paper, on a wall, on your hand, or on the printed template that you can download here.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to:

  • Organize their notes logically.
  • Learn new topics quickly and with ease.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Webpage Notes

A blank webpage template works great as a visual organizer for some classes. Look at our imaginary home page for an American History site, and then use the blank template below.

Perfect choice for:

Students who perceive information more easily with notes that look like their favorite webpage layout.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Outline Notes

The simple outlining system of note taking is a well-organized strategy if you do it right. You don’t need to edit it too much, and you can add as many ideas as necessary.

Perfect choice for:

Students who not only need to record content but also see relationships between points.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Sentence Note Taking

This one’s easy! All you have to do is to put every new fact or idea on a separate line in sentence form. No need to draw anything or to think too hard during the note taking process. Use your textbook to make notes or print out our helpful template.

Perfect choice for:

Students looking for a super-easy note taking method.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Cluster Notes (Mind-Mapping)

This multi-purpose note taking method can be used for lectures in any discipline. All you have to do is to create different shapes and insert the relevant data inside them.

Perfect choice for:

Anyone who is looking for:

  • A method to organize ideas in the early stages of reading, writing, or thinking.
  • A simple strategy to easily perceive and memorize the recorded notes.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Sequence Flow Map

Fill in the ovals with the necessary information and discuss your notes in your conclusions.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need a convenient tool to show events or stages in chronological order.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Charting Method

The charting method works great if you need to divide your notes into categories, like:

  • Dates
  • Features
  • Similarities
  • Events

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to:

  • Take lecture notes in a clear format.
  • Process and learn a huge amount of information.

Download a free template for this method

Analyze plot, events, and characters

In this category, you’ll find distinct note taking templates to analyze the exposition, setting, or characters of any story you have to read. These tools will help you find meaning even in minor details that you may not have noticed while reading.

Develop your creative and analytical thinking skills with these templates!

  1. Plot Diagram

Keep forgetting the key stages of the plot? You don’t need to reread your story or book a thousand times—just use this diagram!

Perfect choice for:

Students who don’t want to read and reread a 700-page book just for one class.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Event Spider

As soon as you look at the important events and details of a story listed in this template, you’ll recall all the key moments from the chapter or book you’ve read.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to prepare for a test on reading. Even students with arachnophobia can use this spider’s sheet without fear.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Character Map

The many literary techniques of characterization can be difficult to master. But not with this template for your character assessment!

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to provide more detail about a certain character than just, “She is a super cute and sweet girl (and that’s all I remember about her).”

Download a free template for this method

  1. Episodic Notes

You can use this note making method for a wide array of tasks in which you need to visualize and explain the stages of a process.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to illustrate scenes or stages from a text or topic they’re reading/studying. (Hopefully, you can draw a dog that doesn’t look like a dinosaur.)

Download a free template for this method

  1. Target Notes

This style of note taking is a very popular and useful tool when you have to evaluate someone or something by explaining why, when, and to what extent they are important.

Perfect choice for:

Students who have to discuss the level of importance of some concept, idea, character, object, etc.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Timeline Notes

This multi-use tool can serve different purposes:

  • Conducting scientific experiments
  • Studying history
  • Reading
  • Doing other activities

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to:

  • Show the sequence of events/stages
  • Determine the relationships between them
  • Improve their reading, thinking, and writing skills

Download a free template for this method

Organize ideas into a hierarchy

If you need to show the hierarchy of certain things or ideas, it’s very easy to do with the help of pyramids. Look at these two templates we’ve prepared for you and use them to organize your material logically or to narrow down your topic.

  1. Hierarchical Notes

It’s as simple as ABC: put the most solid, significant, and basic aspects or ideas at the bottom and then go up the pyramid by adding less and less important things.

Perfect choice for:

Students assigned to arrange ideas into a hierarchy.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Inverted Pyramid

The Inverted Pyramid is the exact opposite of the Hierarchical Notes listed just above. You can use this strategy to narrow down your topic.

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to narrow down their topic. For example, the general topic of “Jargon” can be narrowed down to “Is ‘Huh’ a Universal Word?

Download a free template for this method

Print out, cut, and fill in

Custom-Writing is here to save your time and effort by offering you templates that you can print out, cut, and use for your studies right away.

  1. Critical Reading Bookmarks

This template is great to use as a bookmark while reading. Refer to the template to:

  • Make notes about characters
  • Answer the given questions for critical analysis

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to analyze a selection they’re reading. This sheet will make sure you keep your notes on hand while reading.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Vocabulary Squares

Print and cut out these vocabulary squares to easily analyze new words and quickly memorize them.

Perfect choice for:

Anyone who needs to enrich their vocabulary with new words and phrases. One vocabulary square is worth a thousand words!

Download a free template for this method

  1. Idea Cards

There are endless purposes that you can use these Idea Cards for:

  • To fill in the names of characters/events
  • To discuss important points about them
  • To organize them into clusters
  • To show their relationships or causes and effects

Perfect choice for:

Students who need to unscramble a multitude of messy thoughts.

Download a free template for this method

Discuss in groups

“Truth is sprouted in discussion,” right?

We all know that properly structured teamwork is sure to:

  • Reinforce skills relevant to both individual and group work.
  • Develop skills arising from collaborative efforts.
  • Improve your analytical, speaking, and persuasive abilities.

So why not make the best of it?

  1. Roundtable Notes

Write a topic or main idea in the middle circle and add four approaches or supporting details around it.

Perfect choice for:

Effective group discussion in which everyone expresses opinions on a certain topic.

Download a free template for this method

  1. Lit Circle Notes

This note taking template is a mix of cooperative studying, independent reading, and in-group discussion.

Perfect choice for:

Students who want to play an in-group learning game to discuss literature. Just select your role and play!

Download a free template for this method
No matter what subject you are studying, these templates will save you a considerable amount of time both in the classroom and at home. So don’t just take notes and then rewrite them later—do it right the first time!

Some of the materials in this article were created based on Jim Burke’s templates.

Comments (6)

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